A fellow Milwaukee food blogger, Cooking Secrets for Men, recently posted a recipe for Cincinnati chili. Something that had completely fallen off my radar so his posting inspired me to get on top of the situation.
Cincinnati chili, like the chili at Real Chili is a more or less composed dish. A base of pasta (generally speaking it would be spaghetti but I used penne or rigatoni or something, I don’t think the Cincinnati police, unlike the Royal Indian Mounted variety were gonna kick up too much of a fuss). The noodles are topped with sauce, like you would with spaghetti, followed by beans, if you want, and shredded cheese.
I made a third of a recipe (which is on the back of the packet), measuring the spice mix on my not-very-trusty scale and using a third of a can of tomato paste but it worked very well. I also added the glorious Rancho Gordo beans. And it was enough for 2 meals easily (and some intermittent snacking).
His recipe and procedure is here. He uses ground turkey because there is less grease but I find that the grease is one of its charms.
I planted about 6 black beans, the dried ones I get from Rancho Gordo. I seem to recall that he, Rancho, even suggests that we do this. Its safe for him to suggest this because no one in their right mind will ever attempt this. Which is where I come in. I stuck 6 seeds in the ground.
I’ve never done anything like this so what I thought I was going to end up with, I dunno. If I put in 6 plants was I going to end up with 40 million beans or 14? When are they done? Green beans can be eaten pretty much any time but it seemed to me there had to be a moment when these were pick-and-shuckable. Well that moment has arrived at least for the black beans. I picked and shucked ’em. There weren’t a lot, roughly a can’s worth. But I’m good with that. I’d like to save them for something special, but really, what’s gonna be so special with black beans? Nachos? Chili? Black beans under glass?
Next up, my giant white lima beans. They’re nowhere near ready, the beans inside the pods are just little. But I’m hopeful.
With the Instant Pot I find it is better to make chili in stages. The brute force of 20 minutes renders the chicken highly shreddable but murders the beans and vegetables. So usually I do things one at a time. I started with the beans, some fancy white bean from Mexico grown only by Mayans or some damn thing, Rancho Gordo tells me. 10 minutes is fine. I have to take the beans out and then comes the chicken. Vegetables come last for 3 or 4 minutes. When I was done with the chicken, though, the bean to chicken ratio was way off. I’d planned on green chicken chili which is a fine month of pain slop-like meal. The beans were already done so I had to make more. I then had the scathingly brilliant idea (a line from the Parent Trap with Hayley Mills—a personal fave of mine when I was a kid much to my father’s disappointment) to make 2 kinds of chili. Red and green. I then Instant Potted up some black beans (which surprisingly did not take the pressure as well as the white beans note to self).
Then I finished them both in different real pots rather than 2 more Instant Pot sessions. I was pretty sick of that insanity. (I also weighed the cooked chicken so I had equal amounts, just in case I hadn’t been being mentally disordered enough).
When I was done though, I thought Oh, cool, I can have them both in the same bowl side by side!! I ladled them carefully into each side of the bowl and put sour cream and chopped onions in the middle. It was pretty and delicious even if it was a little difficult to eat with the straight jacket on.
I had a lot of the leftover bean/pasta stuff I made for the Tastebuds food people. And by that I mean they politely choked down a teaspoon of it and I was left with a massive amount to take home. That was fine, I liked it and it came in handy when Carol came over very spur of the moment on Monday night. I dumped a number of cheeses into it including ricotta and covered it with provolone and baked it. It was good but surprisingly the cheese didn’t really enhance it all that much.
I had the idea to cook the beans with herbs and aromatics. I knew I was going to make a salad with them. I simmered them with sage, thyme, basil and bay leaves and threw in a wedge of old onion. I thought they tasted pretty good on their own but I made a salad with capers, celery and red peppers…oh my god.
My friend Sandy, who I was eating with me, tasted the salad and said Oh My God! These beans!! What are they? So I guess they were, you know, pretty good.
While I think that Marcella Hazan may probably not have minded that a bean was named after her, and maybe even have liked it, I think I’d rather have, for instance, ice cream or lasagna named after me. And I am sure that Rancho Gordo guy, I forget his name, thinks this is an outstanding honor. Of course, beans are his life so there’s that. And, if memory serves, he cleared this with her family, so at least we know he’s polite.
I bought these based on his glowing description of this heirloom bean he found somewhere in Outer Frazzmania or some damn place. (Imagine travelling around tasting random beans!) They are good, I’ll give him that, but still if someone wants to name something posthumously after me, lets go with a cocktail, as it were, or even a sandwich. Not a bean, or, god forbid, an anchovy.
I read a compelling story in the New Yorker about a guy who finds special beans, grows them and sells them. (He’s also gay and funny so there’s that as well). Marcella Hazan, the famous Italian cookbook writer, was (she is no longer with us) a client of his and I thought what the hell, if she thinks he’s got something goin’ on, he must, because she was very particular about her ingredients, not to mention her methods and she had many opinions…like some people I could mention. (You know who you are) When you read her cookbooks it feels like she’s yelling at you. But no matter. I ordered some beans.
First thing back in the good ol’ USofA after a month in the culinary wasteland that is called Germany (Oh calm down, it’s just a joke). I HAD to make chili. Of course.
Conveniently these beans had arrived by the time I returned and providence being what it is, everything just came together. Beans, chili-craving, America.
Although, usually it takes (me, anyway) about 369 hours to soften dried beans. These took about 30 minutes at a gentle simmer. And I dunno, I may be crazy but these were really, really good.