Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pork and White Bean Chili


It is hard, as a writer, to not get too…preachy. Or to ramble. Or be boring. Three things that are more difficult than you might  think. And for the most part, I believe that I succeed at being none of those things in my writing as long as…well, as long as I am not writing about anything too serious. I can write about my kids or my garden or my small town without too much stress. It’s easy to throw together a couple hundred words about whatever happens to be passing through my brain. But this post is different.
I must have written this post a half dozen times and erased every word because it was one, or all, of the things that I just mentioned. The reason I am having such a tough time is because that this is one post that I feel pretty strongly about. And I talk about this a lot with my friends and family ( and I’m sure they are sick of it). The thing that I feel pretty strongly about is simply – Food.

I feel like there is a huge disconnect in this nation between man and the food that they put in their mouths. The general population that surrounds me only thinks of food as a means to an end. In the words of my brother, food is just there to “make a turd” ( if you think that is shocking you should hear our other conversations). It bothers me that parents aren’t more concerned about making meals for their families that don’t have weird chemicals and hormones in them. It troubles me when I see a 300 pound woman walking through the grocery loading up with sodas, Little Debbies, and frozen pizzas all while yelling at her 4 year old who is bouncing off the ceiling while drinking a Diet Mountain Dew. I wonder where choices like that are going to take us as a nation.
Of course, I live way out in the country where the local Farmer’s Market can barely survive because many folks have their own garden, chickens and cows. Where a small population means the selection at any store is, at best, limited. And the people here are poor. The average income is well under $30k so that means a lot of people here are on food stamps. And I understand that processed and prepackaged foods are just plain cheap and whether or not there is any nutritional value there at least you aren’t going hungry.
But I have to wonder, how much of people eating the crap that huge corporations are pumping out is need, apathy, or just plain ‘ol ignorance. Is it not common sense to cook real food? I’m not talking “organic” this or “naturally grown” that ( although those are all good things) I’m talking being able to identify everything in your cart with one name; carrot, beans, flour, chicken, milk, etc. Instead of potato spuds, Hamburger Helper, Freschetta frozen pizza, Tyson chicken nuggets, etc.
I think people believe that cooking from scratch is hard or somehow so time consuming that you might as well pull out the cow’s head and the wood-fired oven. I recently taught a cooking class with some simple dishes; Butternut Squash soup, Foccacia bread, Braised beef and baked apples. I stood in front of the small gathering of “students” and showed them how to make good, simple, and real food. The reactions were mixed. Many were stunned that good cooking was so easy, a few were skeptical, “who makes there own bread?”. Hopefully though, those few students saw that cooking from scratch is easy and delicious.
And I hope that you also see that cooking wholesome homemade food is the best way to go. Homemade doesn’t have to be an “elite” food. Homemade can be what you make it. It can be cheap. It can be creative. It is certainly delicious.
A pork butt and a bag of beans can ( and probably will) feed you all week. I recommend starting this recipe with leftover smoked pork (made in the smoker/crock pot/oven)  and a bag of dry Northern beans. A little extra planning on the weekend can make your weeknights super easy.
Pork and White Bean Chili
    For Beans:
  • 3 cups dry white beans
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 qt. chicken stock
  • For Soup:
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 cups chicken broth
  • 2- (4 oz.) cans diced green chilies
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • 1 t. oregano
  • pinch of red pepper
  • 2 cups cooked shredded pork ( or chicken!)
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toppings:
  • sour cream
  • cheddar
  • diced jalapeno
  • chopped cilantro
  1. Rinse and sort beans. Place them in a large pot, cover with water and soak overnight ( or do the quick soak method: Cover with water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let stand for 2 hours covered). Drain the beans, and return to the large pot. Add one quart of chicken stock, bacon and quartered onion to the pot. Add water until the beans are covered by 2 inches. Heat the beans to boiling, then reduce and simmer for 1-2 hours or until the beans are tender. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Saute onion and garlic until onion is tender. Drain the beans and add to the pot with the broth, diced chilies, cumin, oregano, and red pepper. Bring to boiling and simmer for 20 minutes. Mash beans slightly to thicken soup. Add the pork and chopped cilantro. Check seasonings. Top with sour cream, cilantro, cheese, and jalapeno. Serve and enjoy!
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