Thursday, March 01, 2007

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 20 - QDCBS (Quick and Dirty Chili Bean Stew)

So I'm sure your first question here is "What the hell is Chili Bean Stew"

Well, so anyone who doesn't know any better, Chili Bean Stew is what they think of as Chili. To the rest of us who DO know better, it's a lot like real Chili, except it has beans in it.

Yes folks, real Chili has no beans.

So, why is this "quick and dirty"? Well let's say you've only got an hour before the game, and you were supposed to make the chili, what do you do?

If you were even thinking "but chili only takes a few minutes to heat up from the can"... just leave now before I have to kill you.

Real Chili takes from two to six hours to cook; unless you're one of those competition chili freaks, who usually have a rule about 30 minutes of prep time and one hour of cook time etc...

Anyway, real chili takes a lot of simmering; because real Chili is comprised almost entirely of BEEF.

Now, before we begin, let me direct you to my REAL Chili recipe, Andouille Guinness Chili
Like I said though, that Chili takes a couple hours. This chili takes about five minutes of prep time, and basically no actual work during the 30 minutes it's cooking...

30 minutes you say? But how?

A pressure cooker that's how.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, you really should.

Lots of folks (and kentucky fried chicken) swear by them for fried chicken. I like them for soups, stews, chili and the like.

I’m actually a little wary about doing anything with a lot of potentially explosive flammable substances under high pressure, like frying in a pressure cooker. Yes, I know KFC does it all day every day, I’m still worried about temperature control; so I only use the cooker for stuff where you dont have to worry about fine tuning your timing or your temperature… like soups and stews... oh, and there is NO better way to soften beans quickly.

See one of the problems with pressure cookers is you can’t stir or shake them while cooking; and leaving the heat on just a bit too high for just a bit too long (in building the head of steam for example) can cause burning on the bottom. With a normal pot, that’s not really TOO bad a problem, because the water in the pot will limit the burning to a very thin layer on the bottom; since water is limited to 212 degrees… a normal pot...

In a pressure cooker, the water is under a lot of pressure, and can get to 260-280 degrees (at 15 or 20psi over atmospheric ambient); while the layer at the very bottom of the food and liquids being cooked can get over 400 degrees. Worse, if grease separates from the water (as it can at high temperatures), it can reach flashpoint.

Of course after saying everyone should have one; I haven't had one for several years. Anyway, a few days ago I bought a 6 quart Fagor, from Costco, for $49. I had been planning on an 8qt for about $80 from Amazon, but I saw the deal at Costco and figured, what the hell let’s try it.

Now I know a lot of you don't have pressure cookers, don't know what to look for etc... but it's no big mystery.

What I'm looing for in a pressure cooker, is a two setting (or more) spring pressure valve (not the old trembling weight, or whistle type), with both slow release and a quick release, as well as an easy to use locking control, and an easily washable/replaceable lid seal. Also VERY important is a THICK bottom. Remember you can’t move, shake, or stir the food while it's cooking; so the thick bottom helps prevent burning. In my case, the pressure cooker I bought has a thick 18/10 body with an aluminum sandwich bottom (the second best type for spreading heat, after stainless clad copper).

OK, anyway, that's the quick part, what's dirty about this?

Well it's not so much dirty, as it is cheap and low rent. In fact it's very simple and easy to clean up; with only the one pot, and generally no mess.

Unless you feel like adding extra, there are no fresh ingredients in this dish except the meat; and even then it's cheap meat, that'll actually taste better if it's started to get a little ripe. Unless you want to add a habenero for some heat (highly recommended), this whole thing comes out of bottles, cans, and jars.

In fact, you could probably pretty easily pull an "Alton Brown" special, and use a good bit of beef jerky for the meat if you wanted. I've never tried it, but that WAS the original purpose of beef jerky as we know it today, so I'd assume it's at least edible.

Anyway, if I keep goin on, it'll take you longer to read the recipe than to make it.

1 full tri-tip roast (2.5 - 4lbs depending), trimmed to 1/4" fat or less, cubed
2 12oz or 14oz cans of refried, pinto, or black beans (both sizes are around in my area)
1 beer (NO LIGHT BEER, the darker, and more alcohol and hops the better)
6 oz of Franks Red Hot hot sauce (yes, it's cheating, so's the whole damn recipe)
2 cans of unsweetened tomato paste
4oz of butter (or bacon drippings, or a mixture)
4oz lemon juice
Fresh Ingredients (optional):

1 finely minced habanero pepper
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 shot of vodka (if you add the habanero, add the vodka; it will enhance the flavor.)

Seasonings (all seasonings are appx. to taste):
4 tblsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
1 tblsp cayenne powder
1 tblsp hot smoked paprika
2 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried cilantro (not ground coriander seed, which produces cilantro)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Salt to taste (usually about a teaspoon just to activate the tastebuds)
When you're picking out your tri-tip, go for something that's nicely and evenly streaky (choice only here, no select... I suppose you could use prime, but I've never actually seen prime tri-tip). We want the beef fat to render in this recipe, and it will be much more tender and flavorful. A whole tri-tip blade can weigh anywhere from a bit over 2lbs all the way up to 4lbs; and I say the more meat the better.

Cube your tri-tip into 3/8" cubes, lightly cover it with salt, and put it aside for a few minutes.

Take your 4oz of butter or the equivalent volume of bacon grease (for flavor), and heat it in the bottom of the pressure cooker, on high, until the water boils off and the butter starts to brown.

Slowly add in meat, browning as you go and then moving the meat off to the side, allowing the grease to stay hot so as to keep the browning action going.

As soon as all the meat is in the cooker, and just about done browning, add in all the dry seasonings; and saute' until the flavoring is thoroughly spread over all the meat (half the reason for doing this is the smell it puts in your kitchen. It's incredible - but the high heat of the saute will release more oils and flavors as well).

The rest of the prep work for this recipe takes less than five minutes.

Deglaze the bottom of the cooker with about half the beer, then when the bottom is clean, pour the rest in, along with the hot sauce and lemon juice; and turn the heat way down to medium low.

Add in your two cans of tomato paste, combining thoroughly. The whole thing should be very wet still, and right around simmering. If you are going to add in any fresh ingredients as well, now is the time.

Add in the two cans of beans, combining thoroughly. Be careful not let this mixture get too thick or it WILL burn to the bottom of the pressure cooker, even on low heat. If the mix feels too thick, add more beer, or a little water.

Once the mixture is COMPLETELY smooth and incorporated (again, if it isn't smooth it WILL burn), adjust the seasonings for the final time before sealing the lid on.

One thing to remember with pressure cookers, the combination of high heat and shorter cooking time, changes the way flavors meld. You don't get the long time for flavors to either blend and mellow, or to develop, that you do with a long simmer.
On the other hand, the higher heat tends to bring up certain flavors, and the short cooking time prevents certain flavors from being muted, especially flavors that depend heavily on essential oils, like crushed dried whole spices and herbs (which is why I used them in this dish). Where fresh herbs would have just wilted, and produced off notes, dried seasonings are actually better in a pressure cooker than they are in everyday cooking.

Once the cooker has built its head of steam (and every cooker is different - follow the directions on yours), reduce the heat to the lowest possible to sustain the highest pressure setting, and cook for about 25-30 minutes (again, cookers vary somewhat).

Importantly, especially if you have an electric oven, DO NOT GO ABOVE MEDIUM HEAT once you stop stirring the ingredients and clamp the lid on. Yes, it will take longer for the head of steam to build, but if you DO go above medium you WILL burn your beans; and at the high temps inside a pressure cooker, the burning gets VERY nasty.

After 30 minutes, take the cooker off the heat, and let it cool naturally until the pressure releases on its own. It will probably take 15 minutes or so. You can use an accelerated cooling method like running water over the cooker if you like, but the result won't taste quite as good. The cool down period give the food a little time to rest, and flavors to meld etc...

From start to finish, this whole dish takes about an hour; and it produces a far better Chili bean stew than you'll find in a can, or at a deli counter.

Oh, and you CAN cook this without the pressure cooker, but it takes about an hour of additional simmering, and stirring, to soften the meat enough to be good; and you have to be careful about fats separating, and beans burning to the pan.

The recipe produces about 3-3.5 quarts of chili bean stew; enough for six small-medium bowls or 4 great big ones. I recommend serving with shredded cheddar cheese, oyster crackers; and sweet corn bread with butter and honey (especially if you're adding habaneros).
And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 20 - QDCBS (Quick and Dirty Chili Bean Stew)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 19 - Chicken Salmonella
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 18 - I'll give YOU a good stuffing turkey (1)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 17 - REAL Coffee
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 16 - DTG (Damn That's Good) dip
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 15 - More Chocolate Than Cookie
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 13 - Mels 10,000 Calorie Butter Cookies
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew