How to make CNN host Brianna Keilar’s chili mac, and an easy cocktail for Army-Navy game day
Channon Hodge/CNN

How to make CNN host Brianna Keilar’s chili mac, and an easy cocktail for Army-Navy game day

What do the holidays and football have in common? They both feature good food, sprinkled with a little rivalry and animosity among family and friends.

To pay homage to deployed service members, CNN’s Brianna Keilar is making Game Day Chili Mac, “the most popular MRE (meal ready-to-eat) of the US military,” and a themed cocktail for the Army-Navy football game December 11, she said via email.

“My husband is a Green Beret,” said Keilar, coanchor of CNN’s morning show New Day and author of the CNN Politics column Home Front, which focuses on bridging the military-civilian divide.

“The biggest rivalry, as far as we’re concerned, in college football is the Army-Navy game,” she added. “It takes over my house. It’s a whole lead-up.”

As someone who often has experienced Ohio’s food scene while traveling for work, Keilar made a Cincinnati-style, Skyline Chili restaurant-inspired dish that includes spices you might not usually associate with chili — such as cinnamon, cloves and allspice, which create a more complex flavor, Keilar said.

“No offense, the version we’re making is a significant upgrade from the food pouch version, even if this game day chili mac doesn’t have a shelf life of three and a half years,” Keilar said.

The chili isn’t only good for game day, but you’ll need something in your stomach if you’re going to be drinking during the game, Keilar said.

That’s where the Army & Navy Cocktail — a classic drink created at least 73 years ago to celebrate the football game — comes in.

Keilar used the version by recipe blog Moody Mixologist, which balances “the tartness of fresh lemon juice” with sweet, creamy orgeat syrup and Angostura bitters that impart depth and complexity, according to Moody Mixologist.

Below are Keilar and Amy Traynor’s (the Moody Mixologist) recommended ingredients, instructions and tips for both recipes.

Game Day Chili Mac

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped + 1 more for topping, chopped (optional)
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 8 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti (1 package)
  • Lots of shredded medium cheddar

Instructions

1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown ground beef and 1 chopped onion, about 10 minutes. Brianna likes the ground beef to be more broken up, so she used a handheld potato masher or pastry blender to separate chunks (you can also do so with a spatula).

2. Drain fat if needed.

3. Add beef stock, then simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Add tomato paste, chili powder, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, allspice, cloves and bay leaf. Simmer — uncovered so that chili reduces — for 1 hour.

5. Bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente.

6. Remove the bay leaf from the chili. Use a spoon to skim off fat if needed.

7. Serve chili over spaghetti. Top with cheese and, if preferred, 1 chopped onion.

Army & Navy Cocktail

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ ounce lemon juice, fresh or bottled (if using fresh, requires 1 or 2 lemons, depending on size) + 1 lemon to make twists for garnish (optional)
  • 2 ounces gin
  • ½ ounce orgeat syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters (can substitute other bitters such as chocolate or cherry)
  • Edible flowers for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. If using fresh lemon, juice it into a small bowl.

2. Fill your cocktail shaker three-quarters full with ice.

3. Add gin, lemon juice, orgeat syrup and bitters to cocktail shaker. If using a jigger, pour and measure each ingredient into the jigger one by one, then add to cocktail shaker.

4. Shake until chilled and combined, then strain into coupe glasses.

5. Garnish with a lemon twist and edible flowers if desired.

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