Thursday, June 05, 2008
Garlicky Beany Goodness
I'm unreasonably proud of these little golden buggers. They're my first few pods of Indian Woman Yellow beans, dried on the vine, and just harvested today. I'll keep these first beans from my shrubby vines to use for seed next year since they are the fruit of flowers that bloomed before any of my other beans. They should be safe from genetic mixing. So what is here in the picture (along with a couple handfuls more of early-harvested beans) will end up growing later in my garden, but most of the rest of dry beans will end up on the stove and on my dinner table.
And many of the dried beans will end up simmering away with plenty of garlic.
I've harvested and cured most of the garlic from my garden plot. I have a lot to say about the different varieties I tried growing, but I'll save that for later. Right now, I just want to dream about the different ways garlic will raise its fragrant head throughout my culinary future.
As readers can probably detect by what I'm growing this year, I really like beans. I like them green, pickled, stewed, refried, and just about every way I've ever encountered them. This recipe, however, really plays up to the strength of small beans, like pinquitos (and hopefully Indian Woman Yellow, although I don't know that yet for sure). The size and texture of small beans makes a good counterpoint to the chew and bite of meat, if you choose to make this recipe with meat. While meat may be optional in this recipe, chipotle chile and plenty of garlic are not. The smoky heat of the chipotle brings out the depth of good garlic, and if you choose to use a dark stout for the bean broth, the bittersweet chocolate flavors of the beer make a gorgeous frame for the toothsome beans.
You will need:
1 pound dried pinquito or other small dried bean locally available (rinsed, picked over, and soaked in clean water over night)
1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground chile molido
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups canned tomatoes with their juice
1 cup very dark beer, preferably stout
2 large, leafy stems of oregano
1 pound ground beef (optional, this is very good without meat as well)
salt to taste
If you are making this with meat, you will need two large, heavy pots to make this chili; otherwise, you only need one dutch oven style pot.
To make the chili:
Heat the fat or oil in one of the large pots and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned around the edges. Add the garlic and chili powders, stirring until fragrant and the spices are beginning to toast, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and beer immediately. Bring the liquids to a boil.
Add the drained beans to the boiling liquids and stir to mix. Toss the stems of oregano into the pot, and add enough water to the bean mixture to just cover the beans. Bring the mixture to a boil again, then turn down the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. In order to keep the mixture from drying out and scorching the chili, check occasionally and add water as necessary. Cook for one hour (or possibly longer), until the beans are almost tender.* Keep the beans on a slow simmer.
In the other pot, if you are adding meat, brown the ground beef. Once the meat is browned, add a large ladle-ful of liquid from the bean pot to the meat pot. Swirl the liquid around the meat pot, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom and sides. Pour the meat and liquids from the meat pot into the bean pot, making sure that you have all the good browned bits, and stir all the ingredients together in the bean pot. Cook on low for about 15 minutes, or until the beans are completely tender and the flavors have melded. Add salt to taste; in my experience, the mixture needs about 1 teaspoon of salt.
If you like the traditional fixings, serve with grated cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, salsa and/or diced avocado, and sour cream. If you're a simplist, serve the chili alone. Either way, it is excellent.
This chili generously warms up the bellies of four bean-loving folks.
*More recently dried beans cook more quickly. Beans often take hours to cook because they've been sitting so long in warehouses or supermarket shelves. In order to get the freshest, best beans, try looking for beans at your farmers' market or other source of locally-grown food. These vendors will be likely to have more recently-harvested beans. At the Pasadena farmers' market, we have several types of wonderful beans available, and the vendors happily provide all sorts of cooking ideas.