Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Fort Collins, Colorado

The Location: Fort Collins, Colorado

2013 census: 153,061 people. 82.9% white, 10.3% Hispanic. Per capita income $29,987

Prior to the European invasion, the region was home to multiple tribes of Native Americans. The Cheyanne, Arapaho, Ute, Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache all lived there. Forts like Fort Collins were built to protect white settlers and their interests, and maintain control over the Native American population. By 1878, reservations for each tribe had been established and they were forced to move there. All but the Ute were moved out of the state of Colorado, to other nearby states.

Fort Collins was built in 1862. It was only used by the United States Army for a few years when settlers arrived in the area. The fort was decommissioned in 1867. The city surrounding the fort was built up in the 1870's and 1880's. The sugar beet and lamb industries were the top industries that helped build up the city's economy. It remained an economically strong city even through the Great Depression. World War Two brought with it a population boom and much of the city's original structures were replaced with newer models.

Politically, the city was known to be rather conservative. Alcohol was banned from the late 1890's until 1969 when students at Colorado State University protested against it. Today, the city is known for its robust beer culture.

Fort Collins is the fourth largest city in Colorado. It is also said to be one of the cities that was the visual inspiration for Disneyland's Main Street, USA, when Walt Disney was designing the park.

The Food: Chili and Cornbread

Colorado is a unique state in our country. It is part of the West, but it is also part of the Midwest, and it is part of the Southwest as well. Its cuisine is influenced by all of these cultures. It's known for its beef and lamb production, neither of which I eat. This presented some problems for me when trying to pick a meal for this state. I didn't want to just go with the Denver Omelet, because I felt that was too easy. I originally did plan on it, if I couldn't find anything else to use. In the end, though, I settled on chili and cornbread. I had a recipe card for chicken chili in the slow cooker and it even called for beer, so that fit in perfectly with the city's beer culture, though truth be told, that was a coincidence because I picked out the recipe before researching the city's history. It was a lucky choice, I guess!

I altered the recipe a little, as I always seem to do, so I will write it out how I did it, because I think it worked really well.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
1lb. ground chicken
3 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. chili powder
1(15oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1(15oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed
2(14.5oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 med. sweet potato, peeled and shredded(about 10 oz.)
2 zucchinis, shredded
1(15oz.) can chicken broth
1/4 cup instant tapioca
1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce with seeds, chopped
2 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. granulated garlic(I didn't have this and used powdered garlic and it was fine.)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
1/2-3/4 cup lager-style beer, optional

Put the chicken in the slow cooker. Add 3 Tbsp. of the chili powder and the rest of the ingredients except the beer. Stir everything together, cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the remaining 2 tsp. of the chili powder, the beer if using, and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Divide the chili among warm bowls.
Toppings: Sour cream, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, chopped green onions.

Makes 6-8 servings.

This chili was amazing! I did the 8 hours and stirred it a few times throughout the day just to make sure everything blended together. When I added the beer and last of the chili powder I left the lid off and turned it onto high for a while to help burn off some of the alcohol because it was a little bitter otherwise. I used 2 chipotle peppers, but if spice is an issue, you might only use one. I wouldn't recommend skipping it entirely since that's the only spice source in the recipe. Chili powder isn't spicy, so there's nothing else in it to give it the spice you want in chili.

The recipe originally called for two pounds of ground chicken, but I felt that was too much and substituted half of it with the zucchini. I think it worked out just fine. The flavor blends overnight in the fridge and is even better the next day. Chili freezes really well, so I will be putting one-cup portions into zip-lock bags to freeze for later meals. It's a good way to make a batch of chili go a long way!

 The cornbread recipe I found online and it hails from an inn in Colorado. Cornbread is pretty generic as a dish so I wanted to find one relevant to the state. This also marked the use of a new ingredient for me. I have never used creamed corn before. It has a really deep corn flavor but a sort of strange texture for my tastes. It's probably fine cooked into things but I don't know that I would really ever eat it plain. And this means I need to find something else to cook it in this week because I have about a third of the can left and I don't want it to go to waste. I spent good money on it.

Since the recipe is online I won't write it out here, but I will talk about the one change I made to the recipe. I made a half batch since it was easily divided in half. Instead of a half cup of sugar, I used a half cup of unsweetened applesauce, my main go-to for replacing sugar. Since I don't know what it would be like if I'd used sugar, I guess I can't say for sure if it worked just the same. I think it turned out fine, though. It's a different type of cornbread because it's more wet from the applesauce and creamed corn, but it was supposed to be that way. My first piece crumbled when I took it out of the pan, but the second piece held up better. It just needed to sit for a while before being cut. I found it sweet but not overly sweet and really delicious with some butter on it.

This would be an ideal autumn meal, but it's good any time of the year because the crockpot keeps from heating up the kitchen. I was really happy with the results of this meal. It was easy to make and very tasty. I highly recommend it!

City History

Native American History

Cornbread Recipe

City Stats

City Map

City Pic

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