In general I disdain celebrity. I think celebrities and most movie stars are overrated, not to mention overpaid. I heard that the
train wreck actor Charlie Sheen gets paid $1.8 million per episode of his show Two and a Half Men (at least until he got booted off the set). I have never seen Two and a Half Men. But it’s hard to believe that any performance is worth $1.8-million, especially as expressed in a 22-minute sitcom.
And yet, I love the Oscars. Love them. I wouldn’t dream of missing them. The red carpet. The gowns. The bling. The coiffs. The teary speeches. There you have it; the hypocrite in me has been revealed. I can’t even tell you why I love the Oscars. I don’t get to the movies that often, and most years I’m lucky if I’ve seen two or three of the contenders. Perhaps I love the Oscars it’s because it’s the closest we come as a society to glamour. And while I don’t care for celebrity I do like glamour, even though I myself am not a glamourous person.
Or maybe it’s because by now it’s a habit. I’ve been watching the Academy Awards for…forever. I remember Cher’s Bob Mackie dresses; the white Gap t-shirt that Sharon Stone wore one year. Sally Field’s “You really like me” speech. And, of course, the fabulously disastrous duet rendition of Proud Mary by Rob Lowe and Snow White.
I needed a way to bridge my two selves: the self that deplores our celebrity culture and the self that revels in it. I couldn’t very well host an Oscar party because that would be completely giving in to reveling. So a few years ago I started hosting my Red Carpet Rant party. It’s a small event, just us and a few neighbors. We sit around and eat a decidedly downscale dinner—chili, cornbread, salad—and
criticize observe the stars as they trip glide up the red carpet and are accosted greeted by Joan and Melissa Rivers.
It’s all in good fun, and of course it’s really about the friends and the food. The chili I serve is deep red and spicy. The recipe changes from year to year, but it always has those two qualities. This year’s recipe is one I adapted from Diane Rossen Worthington’s wonderful book The Taste of Summer. Both of my selves love this recipe. Hope you will, too.
What are your plans for Oscar night? I’d love to hear them.
Adapted from The Taste of Summer, by Diane Rossen Worthington
Diane's recipe calls for cooking chicken breasts, but I have cheated and used rotisserie chicken or roasted turkey breasts (for those local to DC, I got mine at Balducci in Old Town). The original version also calls for sauteing red and yellow bell peppers. But since peppers are not in season, and therefore expensive, I used bottled fire-roasted peppers. I also vary the types of beans used---Beyond pinto beans I've used cannellini, red kidney beans, black beans, and even chick peas. And, of course, you can make it as mild or as spicy as you like, depending on the blend of chili powders that you use. Serve the chili with cornbread, or over long-grain rice or polenta.
- 6 medium whole chicken breasts, cooked; or 2 whole rotisserie chickens; or 2 large rotisserie turkey breasts
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 large onions, finely chopped (6 cups)
- 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
- 8 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 4 teaspoon dried oregano flakes
- 3 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chili powder (I used a combination of powders: Ancho chili, Aleppo pepper, and a spicy blend from a local spice shop)
- 2 12-ounce bottles of beer (I used Bell's Brewery Two-Hearted Ale and Bell's Amber Ale
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 (12-ounce) bottles fire-roasted peppers, diced
- 2 (15-ounce) cans beans (pinto, kidney, black, etc.)
- Sea salt to taste
- 1 square unsweetened chocolate, grated
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- Sour cream
- Grated sharp yellow cheddar
- Chopped scallions or red onion
Remove the chicken or turkey breasts from the bone and shred or cut into large chunks. Put the meat in a bowl and cover. Set aside.
In a large (6-quart) Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the jalapeno and garlic and saute another minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant. Season with the oregano, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and chili powder(s) and stir until well combined.
Pour in the beer, chicken broth, and tomatoes and bring to a low simmer. Cook, partially covered, at a gentle simmer, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add the reserved chicken or turkey, the peppers, and the beans. Continue to simmer the chili, uncovered, for 30 minutes or so, until it is nicely thickened. Season with salt. Then add the grated chocolate and vinegar and stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is well incorporated.
Serve the chili from a large tureen, with cornbread, rice, or polenta, and your choice of garnishes.