Friday, February 6, 2009

To Bean or Not to Bean?

Maybe it's like with Nachos .... and Real Nachos. Real Chili doesn't have beans. You might make some good beans maybe as a side dish to go near the Chili. And a pan of rice might be a good idea too -- especially if the Chili turns out hot as blazes. It's not difficult to make a passable beaned-up concoction, and evidently many people have gotten used to the taste of hamburger. I guess you can get used to anything. But. Hamburger is ground twice, with a fine blade. That's why it tastes like hamburger. Beef ground only once -- and through the coarsest chopper blade -- still tastes like beef. Most butchers will be happy to grind this for you -- ask for "chili grind, and please -- only put it through once." You will probably want to redistribute any large lumps of fat with a chopper.
Also, if you're going to make beaned up chili, probably with tomatoes in it -- at least start with dry beans and soak them overnight. You might try adding one can of refried beans just past the midway point. This will help create an unctuous, velvety mouthfeel. Please note that I approve neither of adding beans, nor of grinding the beef. Dare to make real Chili and serve beans on the side.
As to the spice blend, can you really do better than ancho chiles, cumin and salt? stewed with beef chunks? just until the beef is fall apart tender. Some folks -- and, I hear, even some Texans -- do implausibly insist on adding more vegetal ingredients like minced onion and garlic; but I don't believe they improve the real Chili.
Now, theoretically, it ought to be possible to make sort of a real Chili cassoulet annealed in a slow oven until the fat beef chunks, red kidney beans, ancho chiles, cumin, salt onion and garlic seem ready for the apocatastasis of posterity. But why add beans to the meat? Purists will still want their beans on the side. Maybe you could use two casseroles? The idea of using several kinds of meat, however -- beef, pork and sausage, maybe? -- is intriguing.
Making real Chili will help you transmute fact and legend into myth.
After all, isn't Chili cooking one of the arts where everything matters?
So maybe serving real chili to (literally) tasteless fools uninterested even in discussing the finer points of Chili theory, let alone the practice of making real Chili or in discussing great Chili moments of the past -- might be like watching the playoffs with idiots who -- perhaps because they have none themselves? -- have never learned to appreciate the way some moments in football, basketball or baseball show off the importance of real courage in the human soul.
Hey, thanks for sparking up my appetite .... again. -- Novelismo

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