Those of us who are both serious and sensitive about our cooking have surely been tempted at one time or another to deny that our favorite chili recipe has anything at all to do with chili, to insist rather that it is actually an obscure dish we discovered in Ulan Bator shortly after the last war.
After all, who could then taste it, screw up his nose and say, "Savory, but that's not what I call authentic; no sir, without fresh yak entrails, whang block rock just ain't real whang block rock. "
The simple name change would eliminate the fanatics, such people as the late humorist H. Allen Smith, who actually moved from Mt. Kisco, N.Y., to Texas so that he could grow the kind of peppers without which, to his view anyway, chili just wasn't chili.
All of which is a long way around to introducing Rick Rodarte, who simply doesn't care what the self-proclaimed experts--the number of which at least matches the population figures for the western United States, with Hawaii thrown in--think of his chili, even though a variation of it has won one cook-off and placed highly in two others.
Don't, however, turn up your nose at his Buffalo chicken wings. They are "authentic," you see.
For work, Rodarte, 30, tends bar at El Adobe de Capistrano Restaurant in San Juan Capistrano. For pleasure, he cooks, plays golf and volunteers as much time as he can to an organization called Charities Best, whose members all vouch for his Buffalo wings, if not his chili (he prepared a giant batch of the wings for a recent fund-raiser).
Charities Best is a group of south county residents who raise money for myriad organizations, without any heavy administrative costs. All money goes directly to senior citizen centers, a local hospice and other organizations.
Rodarte is almost as zealous about Charities Best as he is about his Buffalo wings. He is a member of the steering committee for a golf tournament scheduled Friday at San Juan Hills Country Club, and he's not above badgering people to chip in.
An avid occasional golfer, Rodarte won't be playing in the tournament this year because of some recent foot surgery and his job schedule. "About the only person I can beat anyway these days is my brother, Eddie," first assistant pro at Mission Viejo Country Club. (Eddie is at the PGA school of golf course management in Denver and thus unavailable to defend himself.)
As to the chili recipe, Rodarte says it is a variation of one he received from a man he calls the "king of chili," Parky Cosby, the late owner of the Dana Trader Restaurant in Dana Point. And while he insists neither dish is "really hot," those with sensitive tongues may wish to be a mite wary.
If there's a secret to it, he says, it is "don't burn it--and don't put beans in it. If you want chili with beans, go to the market and buy a can of the junk."
Also, "don't use canned tomatoes, use fresh; and don't use ground meat. Take the time to cut up a nice, lean chuck roast."
The secret to the Buffalo wings--which have nothing to do with the beasts that once roamed the plains, but rather the city in New York state where they originated--is "fresh chicken and genuine Louisiana hot sauce."
RICK RODARTE'S CHILI AND BUFFALO WINGS Chili
3 pounds lean chuck roast
2 medium onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 hot yellow peppers, chopped
2 pounds fresh tomatoes
1 whole garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 teaspoons Santa Maria brand chili powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce Preparation
Chop meat into chunks about the size of the tip of your little finger. Brown meat lightly in skillet with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and transfer to large pot. Saute onions and peppers in oil and juices left in skillet and add to meat. Chop tomatoes and add to meat mixture. Add seasonings. Simmer in covered pot three hours. stirring often.
15 chicken wings, halved, tips discarded
1/2 stick butter
10-12 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper Preparation
Wash chicken and pat dry. Place flour, salt and pepper in container with tight lid. Place five or six chicken pieces in mixture at a time and shake until well coated. Deep-fry in vegetable oil and put aside. Heat butter and hot sauce in 2-quart sauce pan and add chicken wings, stirring until covered. Serve with blue cheese dressing as dip.