Quaroutine: Cooking

It’s cooking-dinner time!* Join me!

I thought I’d show you how I whip up something tasty using some unusual pantry combinations.

Did I say “unusual”? Freudian slip. I meant “creative,” probably.

One of my favorite things to make is chili. This is primarily because it’s one of those words with almost no actual meaning, kind of like “sandwich” or “dumpling.” I find that anything between a soup and a solid can legally be called a “chili,” if you’re prepared to keep a straight face and stick to your story when you announce what you’re serving.

Today I’m starting with some beans I soaked last night.** We’ll just set them on to boil. That’s another nice thing about a chili: set it and forget it!

While we wait, here: let’s take a look at one I made before, as a sample.

Okay, fine, I know these are cheese balls. I just really wanted some cheese balls for breakfast. They may be to blame for my burgeoning nighttime ulcer and the scabs on the roof of my mouth but I see no reason to stop.

Anyway, smell that? That humid fug wafting overhead like a benign earthy spirit, fogging up the apartment? That’s beans for you.

It wouldn’t hurt to add some spices while they boil, although we want to avoid salt until the beans are tender (apparently). As far as choosing spices goes, for my chilis I like to sort of grab at random and do a Jackson Pollock. A bit of this, a bit of that. I guess that was—hmm, cinnamon and garam masala. Bit weird. Still a chili, maybe. Let’s just unscrew the lid of the cumin and go to town.

You can literally never have too much cumin.

Okay, the beans are pretty much cooked. Time to add the rest of the ingredients and let it all simmer until dinnertime. I generally prefer a vegetarian chili, but today I’m going to add some chicken, which should end up nicely sort of shredded by the end.

We haven’t been going to the grocery store much, but I wanted to use up this one package of chicken. I was looking for boneless skinless thighs on our last shopping trip, but literally the only option was this chicken simply marked CHICKEN. It’s…chicken. A strange cut, too: two breasts connected by a strap of rib meat. They look like a pair of healthy, smooth lungs sitting in the beans.

Okay, that’s unsettling. Let’s just close the lid on that while we scrounge around for other cans and jars of bits and pieces.

Corn—that’s nice. People like corn in chili, I think. Diced tomatoes, obviously. Some chiles in adobo for some nice heat. (I knew it was a good idea to keep the pantry stocked for emergencies like this!) Tablespoon or two of tomato paste.

Hmm…Coconut milk?

No, right?

I mean…

Maybe?

Okay, okay, I won’t. Let’s just stir this all together and let it simmer. This is the beauty of a one-pot meal—the hands-off ease. I’ll admit: I’m the kind of cook for whom a box of Hamburger Helper can take 90 minutes. Everything just always seems to go a little off, take a little longer than seems possible, get flung onto all kinds of surfaces in various rooms somehow. So I really appreciate a nice simple stewpot.

So make yourself comfortable. In several hours we’ll serve some nice bowls of chili with an optional garnish of cheese balls, followed by a dessert course of cheese balls.

*Meaning anywhere between 3:30 pm and 8:30 pm, because time is an illusion.

**I’m still not convinced of some kitchen tasks you’re supposed to do, such as rinsing rice, but I’ve been soaking dry beans ever since the Unsoaked Beans Incident of 2012.

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