Can Ian make Barack Obama's chili? Yes he can!

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Gut Check

Yes, Barack Obama is a sitting United States senator and the likely Democratic nominee for president, but can the man cook up a decent pot of chili? This isn't a question I normally ask about candidates, but last week I read an online interview in the North Coast Journal in which Obama discusses his agricultural policy. At the end of the article, the senator provided his recipe for chili:

"I've been using this chili recipe since college and would bring it to any potluck. I can't reveal all the secrets, but if you make it right, it's just got the right amount of bite, the right amount of oomph in it and it will clear your sinuses."

I decided to make Barack Obama's chili.

The ingredients are fairly standard: ground beef (or turkey), onion, garlic, green pepper, tomato, kidney beans. Obama throws in a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and his spice blend is four parts chili powder to one part each of cumin, basil, oregano and turmeric.

One of Obama's "secrets" must be salt, because the ingredient list omits it. I salted the ground beef and later added salt to taste. The candidate doesn't specify a heat level for the chili powder, so I split the tablespoon evenly between Penzey's regular and hot chili powders.

The recipe calls for you to simmer the chili "until the tomatoes break down" — I opted for two hours — and then to serve it over white or brown rice. I normally don't eat chili with rice, but the man has a good chance to be the next president of the United States, so I'm not going to argue with him.

It was pretty good.

Given the relatively small quantity of each spice, the tomato, beef and bean flavors dominated, with a nice bite from the cumin and pepper and a little vinegar tartness. Still, even with half a tablespoon of hot chili powder, I found the heat more mild than I like, so I added some of Penzey's "very hot" chile flakes to mine. I'm still a no-rice chili guy, but it went well with Senator Obama's version.

Were I to make it again, I'd definitely up the heat and the amounts of the other spices — the cumin and hot chili powder especially.

I think that's a change we can all believe in.

Opening a new restaurant? Know of a place that has closed? Something else for Ian to chew on? E-mail [email protected]. And check out this column's virtual doppelganger — including pictures of Barack Obama's chili! — at

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