Chili is one of the great North American dishes, and one that is especially relevant and useful in modern life, as it is a hearty one-pot meal that can be put together and left to cook in a crock pot or low oven for several hours.
I’ll argue that the only two essential ingredients in chili are meat and beans. When I was growing up that meat was always, always ground beef, though I have to say I really like using shredded or cubed braised beef like brisket or chuck. For beans you are not beholden to the canned red kidney beans of my childhood: any and all pulses are great. These days my kitchen always has dried pinto and … Continue reading.
There is something miraculous about baked beans, or “brown beans,” as I know them. You take legumes that usually disintegrate when overcooked, and by adding a special blend of ingredients, you can suddenly stew them almost indefinitely without compromising their shape and texture. There are in fact three magic ingredients in this potion:
- acids, usually in the form of tomato, mustard, or vinegar, “make the cell-wall hemicelluloses [in the beans] more stable and less dissolvable”;
- sugar, in the form of molasses, maple syrup or, um, sugar, “helps reinforce cell-wall structure and slows the swelling of the starch granules”;
- calcium, usually in the form of molasses and brown sugar, “cross-links and reinforces cell-wall pectins”.
Since these ingredients prevent … Continue reading.