Wednesday, April 2, 2008

secret ingredient

There's no such thing as a secret in my house. No fact is too small, too insignificant, too petty to blab to the entire zip code. Or worse yet, to your brothers, ensuring that the news travels to the entire tri-state area. (I don't live in the tri-state area, but I'm still reading the Stephanie Plum mystery series set in New Jersey, and it's a little hard to get my head back into Kansas at the moment. I can almost smell the cannolis).


We had chili for dinner, and as usual Surfer Dude helped me get it ready. He pulled out his personal red IKEA cutting mat and the paring knife he's dubbed Knifey, and got to work on the veggies. Meanwhile, I opened cans of beans and tomatoes and assembled all the usual chili spices. When everything was in the pot he stirred it up and asked what else he could do. I said you can choose between biscuits and garlic toast and he chose garlic toast and I said that's pretty much it for the time being then. I was trying to keep a low profile, but the truth was that I needed him out of the kitchen so I could put my secret chili ingredient into the pot ASAP and I didn't want him to see me.


Several months ago he caught me putting silken tofu into lasagna and I've never heard the end of it. All of the kids used to snarf up the lasagna before, but once he spilled the soy beans I have a UN contingent in the kitchen each time I cook it to make sure no contraband makes it into the pan. (And for the record, I put in plenty of ricotta and mozzarella and it really is good lasagna. Hey, my hot flashes need their soy, okay?)


But ever since then I've been a little more careful about what he sees in the kitchen, because I've learned a very important lesson. The kid has a big mouth. And he cannot keep a secret to save his life. Oh, he thinks he can, but he really can't. (You want scarier? He's the most secretive of the three). So I shooed him out and, looking over my shoulder the whole time, dumped my secret ingredient in the pot. Reached over for the wooden spoon to stir it and...


Busted.


He wrinkled up his nose as he peered in the pot. "Do you always put that in chili?" he asked dubiously. "Seriously?"


"You know how you always say I make the best chili in the world?" I shot back. "Well, this is why. Now creep back out on those little cat feet of yours and keep your trap shut. Or I'll put tofu in your lunch box tomorrow."


He smiled sweetly and left.


At dinner he asked each of his brothers in turn if they noticed anything unusual about the chili. Since it's the same recipe they always eat, they didn't find anything different. He turned to me and gleefully said, " They didn't even notice your secret ingredient!" and, visions of bean curd dancing in their heads, I all of a sudden had their full attention. For the next ten minutes we played Name That Ingredient until Surfer Dude couldn't stand it for one more minute and shouted it to the rooftops. Four eyes slid over to me, then down to their chili bowls, their spoons hanging in mid-air. After a long pause, they kept eating. Yes, it's that good.


Way better than SD's secret keeping powers.

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Anybody want to guess? It's a spicy Mexican chili, with chipotles and cocoa powder. What do you think the secret ingredient is?
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And the answer is...pumpkin. Canned pumpkin to be exact. It adds a richness and sweetness that has to be tasted to be believed. (of course I have a house full of pumpkin fanatics, so that helps). It balances the chipotles beautifully and cuts the heat a bit. De-lish.

36 comments:

Nervus Rex said...

Oooooooo -- I just found your blog and like your kids in the chili pot, I'm gonna eat it all up!

I really have no idea what your secret ingredient is -- unless could it be cinnamon?

Let us know! I'm curious!
Shawna

The Rotten Correspondent said...

nervus rex - welcome! cinnamon is a good guess because I do put that in, but the kids know about that. This is more...offbeat.

JaniceNW said...

I have no idea. But I'd like the secret for a calm dinner with teenagers and no whining, pouting and being snotty. Them I mean, not me. LOL.

ciara said...

i got it! tofurky! LOL i really don't know, but i figure why not go w something vegetarian and HEALTHY lol

Kaycie said...

A bottle of Corona?

Carolyn said...

Fun game. I'm the queen of secret ingredients. Pureed vegetables go into everything that Csilla eats. Cauliflower is the easiest to disguise, followed by butternut squash. Pureed carrots are excellent in grilled cheese sandwiches. Not so much for broccoli. Pureed beets are hardest to disguise, but pretty good in pancakes.

As for your secret chilli ingredient, I was going to say chocolate (because it's excellent in chilli), but you already said cocoa, so I'm not too sure.

I'll go with chick peas. They are also excellent in almost anything. Especially chocolate chip cookies. And they are extremely good for you!

Maggie May said...

I have no idea but I am all agog, as it will go straight into MY chilli pot when I know!

Sweet Irene said...

Is it nutmeg? I secretly put that in the leek pie along with marjoram. Probably wouldn't taste very good in chili, though.

Flowerpot said...

I have absolutely no idea. But then I'm a lousy cook!

Jen said...

My guess is peanut butter. I sometimes use cocoa and chipotles in my chili, too, and the peanut butter helps smooth out any bitterness. Oh, no! I gave my secret away *grin*

Akelamalu said...

Chocolate? I hear chilli and chocolate go together really well though I've never tried it and that would explain why the kids still ate it!

laurie said...

he named his kitchen knife?

now that is sweet.

Rudee said...

You need to get that young man into a culinary arts program. It sounds like you've got a budding master chef on your hands. He'll need to learn to keep a secret though if he intends any of his dishes to be the least bit mysterious.

I've no clue what you added to the pot.

Diana said...

I make a kick-ass chili with a bottle of dark beer and some dark chocolate (plus fresh lime juice at the end).

I'm going to guess soy beans. Just 'cuz.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

janicenw - I have no idea why they were making nice. Very untypical! (but very pleasant, I have to say).

ciara, kaycie,sweet irene - nope. not it.

carolyn - somewhere in your comment you are sooooo close....

jen - no, but that's a really good idea. But...mine is for the same reason yours is.

maggie may and flowerpot - well, just because my kids like this chili doesn't necessarily mean it's any good.

akelamalu and diana - I put in cocoa powder usually, but sometimes baking chocolate. But the kids know about that. No soy beans, though.


laurie and rudee - this kid is a chef in the making. He did an Italian cooking class last fall and loved it. But of course we have no kids longer term cooking classes here.

Altaglow said...

Is it some kind of grated squash? I know it isn't chicken livers.

the mother of this lot said...

Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce.

Or is that simply too too English dahling?

Marti said...

My guess is Anchovies. Not sure why I am thinking that except you have a couple of people who are not eating meat but are eating fish.

Marti said...

My guess is Anchovies. Not sure why I am thinking that except you have a couple of people who are not eating meat but are eating fish.

ped crossing said...

The bigger question, did Surfer Dude end up with tofu in his lunch today?

And I have no idea, since I care very little about cooking.

Nearlydawn said...

I can't imagine putting ANYTHING in chili that a TEENAGE BOY wounldn't eat. I mean hell, don't they eat anything (except tofu of course). :)

Nervus Rex said...

I'm reading and reading Carolyn's post to see what is *sooooooo close* but I can't decide! Is it chocolate chip cookies??

CrazyCath said...

Hi! As long as it isn't anything from work....*grin* Now THAT would make them think again!

Unless of course it's valium (diazepam - dunno if it's valium in US). Or laxative.

It is isn't it? Nah, you wouldn't. Not to your children.
What? you would? Especially your children? Especially the teenage children?

Woman after my own heart!

Swearing Mother said...

Lentils.

Swearing Mother said...

Or creamed spinach.

Devon said...

Sounds yummy... is it mole? I love that stuff, wonder how it would taste in chili?

The Rotten Correspondent said...

nope, nope, nope...

want a hint?

think holidays...

Eileen said...

God, RC, I have no idea how to cook chili. That is how bad my cooking is. Lets see...think holiday...must be healthy...dark chocolate or cranberries? I am clueless, as you can see. More hints.

Pamela said...

Does that make it gassier?

-Ann said...

I love pumpkin. I'll have to try it in chili sometime - it's just that I have to ration my supply of canned pumpkin since I 'import' it from the States and it has to last me a year.

You have an Ikea in Kansas??? We don't have one in the entire country yet, though they're meant to be building one in Dublin.

Jettie said...

I love chilli and I make a great pot of it but never have put in pimpkin!! now mashed potatoe fflakes I have !! And I know what you mean our 12 year old has to hear everything and I mean everything!! yet she won't tell us nothing!! like 2 days ago in school she hurt 2 fingers pretty bad didn't say a word i told her if she'd of cut one off she wouldn't of told us!! It drives me nuts and if ya ask her something be prepared for..I don't know,I'm not sure!!! uggggg

Jo Beaufoix said...

I was going to say chocolate.
And 'knifey'? That is cute. Weird, but cute. ;)

I don't think we can get canned pumpkin over here. I will check.

Lil Mouse said...

one brother found out that cottage cheese was in lasagna and freaked. I was married or close to it, so he had to be at least 25. i said, have you ever TASTED it before, well, no.. well then you like it then dont you.. and he eats it..

the other one.. well let's just say he's not as easy to reason with about anything. my mom made muffaletta/o sandwiches with the olive spread on it. with artichoke hearts... and you guessed it, he was just DYING to say, ha ha you ate something bad. he thought it was AARDVARK hearts.. umm, no, dipwad.

Carolyn said...

Grrr. Pumpkin...! I'll have to try that sometime. I was so close with Butternut Squash!

Swearing Mother said...

Canned pumpkin?? Sounds gorgeous. Off to Waitrose to get some.

Sandy said...

Can we have the whole recipe, please, now that we already know the secret?

Thanks.