Red Carpet Rant Chili

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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.

Makes 10-12 servings

Chicken Chili

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

  • Garnishes
  • 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.

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6 Responses to Red Carpet Rant Chili

  1. Liz the Chef February 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Love the heart-healthy chicken and the touch of chocolate – brilliant! I love the Oscars too, except they begin late afternoon here on the West Coast…

    • Domenica February 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      Thank you, Liz. I have been making this chili for a long time. My copy of Diane Worthington’s book is an early edition, published by Bantam Books. It has since been re-issued, by another publisher I believe, with photos this time around. I’m a big fan of her books and recipes. Cheers

  2. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle February 27, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    Thank you for the Sheen rant. I’m furious that he is in the public eye and making a dime. Like you, have never seen and have no interest in his show and am actually a bit irritated that anyone who ever did would not cease immediately and stop supporting his pathetic lifestyle. Just gross!

    We share some of the same thinking though…except I could do without the long speeches, the thanking of every Tom, Dick and Harry imaginable just on the off chance that one person will say something genuine and charming! I participate in a small party each year too…I guess the speeches at least give us some time to chat among ourselves. 🙂

    Chili looks great and so doable for me. Mostly because I have a rotisserie chicken I need to use and use soon. Great idea.

  3. Domenica February 27, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Thanks for your comment, Barb. The speeches! They are either ridiculously self-serious or semi-incoherent. That said, I realize it must take a lot to walk up those stairs to the podium and give an acceptance speech in front of the entire entertainment industry, even if that is what they are “trained” to do. What I could do without with is the scripted banter of the announcers. I do love critiquing the gowns, though. Have fun tonight.

  4. Peggy Long March 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Love this recipe. So funny, as I don’t like celebrities/actors either and watch very few movies, but am addicted to the Oscars. I also made a chicken dish that evening which used a rotisserie chicken. Essence of Mexico.

    Lime chicken Enchiladas
    Makes 8 enchiladas

    1 3½ – 4 lb. Chicken
    1 C diced onion
    1/3 C white wine
    2/3 C chicken broth
    2½ t white pepper
    2 t dried oregano
    2½ t kosher salt (divided)
    Juice of 2½ limes (divided)
    1 16 oz. sour cream
    ½ C half-and-half
    Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
    Grated peel of 1 lime (green part only)
    Vegetable oil for softening tortillas
    8 corn tortillas
    1 C shredded cheddar cheese

    Combine chicken, onion, white wine, chicken broth, garlic, white pepper, oregano, 2 t kosher salt, juice of 1½ limes and enough water to cover the chicken in a medium stock pot.

    Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is tender and comes off the bone easily, about 45 minutes.

    Cool chicken and remove from broth. Remove skin and bone from chicken and dice into ½ inch pieces. Refrigerate until ready to use. (If using a rotisserie chicken, add the lime juice and some lime zest to the chicken and refrigerate.)

    In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, half-and-half, remaining ½ t salt, cayenne, the juice of one lime and the grated lime peel. Refrigerate until ready to use.

    Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.

    Over medium-high heat, heat about 1/8 inch vegetable oil in skillet. Soften each tortilla in the hot oil, turning once. This should only take a few seconds on each side. Add more oil if necessary. Pat the excess oil from each tortilla with paper towel.

    Fill each softened tortilla with about ½ C chicken. Roll tortilla into an enchilada and place into prepared pan. Top with the lime/sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. Serve immediately.

    • Domenica March 6, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

      Thanks, Peggy. Sounds like we are on the same wavelength. Thanks also for sharing your recipe. It sounds delicious and I look forward to trying it. My kids love Mexican food and complain that I don’t make it often enough. Cheers

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