Today I’ve been awoken by my hot gf at 7:42am so we can go to Shoprite. She needs the ingredients to make her special chili and there is not a minute to be wasted. I can barely contain my excitement as I throw on my unlaced boots and trudge outside half awake in the freezing rain and leftover sludge from Friday’s snowstorm. I can’t possibly think of a better way to start a Sunday.
It is a brisk morning. As soon as I start my luxurious 2000 Chevy Cavalier she begins pleading that I turn on the heat.
“Why aren’t you turning the heat on?”
“The car hasn’t warmed up yet so nothing but cold air will blow out,” I explain.
“Well then can you just go? The store is like a minute away.”
After three failed attempts to pull out of the spot, my 4-cylinder beast tears through the entire half inch of wet slush and we are our way. 9 blocks later we arrive to Shoprite. Within moments of parking, my hot gf is out of the car and pushing a shopping cart through the parking lot before I can even open my door. I find her in the produce aisle, where I sneak up behind her and scare the shit out of her.
“Is there anything you want me to get in a different aisle to speed things up?”
“No. It’s fine. Can you move over? You’re standing in front of the cart.”
I proceed to follow her around the store, as she hastily marches through the aisles like a soldier on a mission. Within 15 minutes, she is done.
Chef’s note: I love food shopping, but I always go with a list and plan on being in and out – you can really get caught up in the cereal aisle… I suggest giving yourself a time limit and not making impulsive purchases (if you can’t think of one use for something you probably don’t need it).
When we arrive back at her apartment, I reach in the bags and before I can unload a single item, she shoots me a stern look. I immediately drop the bags and start backing away, slowly. I have learned by now she has a process, but it’s still a strange realization when you discover the most helpful thing you can do is by doing nothing at all. Fortunately I am capable of doing this really well. She starts chopping up some onions, peppers, and garlic, and I hop in the shower.
Chef’s note: Prep your ingredients! Don’t worry about the size, this will be cooking for 8 hours. If 1 piece of onion is larger than the other it will not matter.
When I open the curtain to step out of the shower, she is standing there and greets me sweetly.
“Where were you honey? I was waiting for you to help me.”
“I thought you wanted me to stay out of the way?” I reply.
“No baby, you can help.”
Ok, so now I’m apparently supposed to help. I think I might need some help.
Chef’s note: Make your significant other feel involved. I actually have a hard time having others help me cook, but if I am able to be patient (almost never) I can actually pass my skills onto another. It’s a work in progress.
I get dressed and walk out to the kitchen where she is “browning” (as she has informed me) ground turkey in a skillet. Next to the stove is a crockpot. She tells me to open the cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato juice, and dump the contents into the crockpot.
Chef’s note: Order doesn’t matter here – once everything is in the crockpot you stir it all up anyway. Refer to my full recipe for what goes in now and what will go in 4 hours from now.
I start running the tops of the cans under water. She looks up, confused.
“What are you doing?”
“You know these things are filthy,” I state matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, see you can learn a few things from me too,” I proudly remark.
She continues mixing the turkey in the skillet, unfazed.
Chef’s note: I mean, the amount of crap we actually eat, and you are concerned about the top of a can? Again, let them feel involved.
And now for my daunting task at hand: emptying the contents of these cans. If you have ever seen Phil Hartman in his classic Saturday Night Live skit “The Obsessive Compulsive Chef”, his character most accurately portrays me in the kitchen.
I hold the can over the sink and place the can opener over the edge of a can, squeezing it tightly until it has latched. Then I slowly turn the crank until the entire edge has been serrated around. When I complete the 360 degree rotation, I put the can opener down and use the tip of my left hand’s index finger to gently press the left side of the can top so I can grab it with my right hand. I do this carefully not only to avoid getting my fingers dirty, but to avoid possibly contaminating any food with my own germs. I quickly snatch the top before running it under water again, now placing it to the side of the sink. I rip off a paper towel and dry my hands. I repeat this process for all three cans. Then, I dump each can in the crock pot and wash each of these out, individually. I rip off another paper towel and dry my hands. I take all three serrated can tops and place them each in their respective cans to prevent the possibility of anyone being accidentally cut by them. Finally, I discard all the cans and their safely contained tops in the recycling bin. My contribution to the meal is complete. Proud of myself, I wash my hands, before ripping off another paper towel to dry them.
At this point, my hot gf is done browning the turkey and shoes me out of the way of the sink as she lunges over with the massive skillet to drain the fat. I offer my assistance by standing behind her and attempting to grip the handle with my thumb and forefinger. Thankfully none of the turkey spills out into the sink as a result of my involvement. She grabs the skillet back from me and dumps all the turkey into the crockpot. Fast forward 6 hours.
We are in front of the TV for the Packers pre-game show. Her sister is joining us this evening. We begin debating what to put the chili over. I vote rice, she opts for pasta. Allison is the deciding vote.
“We’re going with pasta.”
“What?! What Mexican has chili over pasta?” I exclaim.
“We’re Italian. We use pasta.”
“They don’t make chili in Italy,” I retort.
“It doesn’t matter. This is the our take on chili.”
“Well then why don’t we just put it over risotto? That would be awesome!”
“You’re crazy. That wouldn’t even make sense.”
“No! You could make some cheddar risotto. It would be like mixing the cheese in with the chili.”
“They are 2 separate things. We’re not doing that.”
“Oh, c’mon! This is the Vitale take on chili. I could be a chef.”
“First learn to cook.”
The decision is made; I’m getting chili over pasta. And I’m not complaining. She let me taste the chili earlier and I don’t care what she puts it over. She could put it over dog shit and I’d still eat it. It’s that good. Just another hour in the crockpot until I can indulge…
Chef’s note: Fast forward to when we are eating it… “You know, risotto would probably be too heavy.” That is correct, Chef Vitale. Unfortunately while risotto is delicious, it is a separate meal and far too heavy for chili. You want to use something that will take on flavor, not something that already has a distinct favor. Stick with unflavored carbs like rice or pasta. You can serve carb less, but I wouldn’t.
It’s halftime during the Packers game, and the bowls have come out of the cupboard. I’m lining up for the opportunity I have been awaiting all season long. This is it. This is what it all boils down to. Just one goal: a bowl. Of chili.
She’s brought out all the essential toppings: grated cheddar, sour cream, chopped scallions. I heap everything on top of my already overfilled bowl and move back to the couch. It truly is a super bowl to display.
Victory. The taste is all mine. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the Packers, as the 49ers won with a field goal on the last play of the game. Their playoff run is over. My hot gf’s handling it surprisingly well, considering she spent the rest of the game cursing and screaming. Maybe she wore herself out.
Or ate too much chili, like me. I’ve eaten two bowls and can barely move right now. No really, she’s going to regret letting me eat this much. I might be sleeping on the couch tonight.
Chef’s note: The Chili is actually pretty good for you. However, my significant other almost did sleep on the couch after my outrage at the Packers loss.
Here’s my hot gf’s take on chili for those of you chilling on a chilly day, with the optional Chef Vitale addition of ruining your significant other’s evening with dutch ovens: