Recipes of V.P. Davis

Pinto Bean Chili

Note: This is a recipe for cooking dried pinto beans which results in a lovely sort of velvety mush. It is annoying to hear that you can't use another kind of bean or use canned bean, but it would be more annoying to do so and find that my instructions make no sense. With a different bean, simply use a different recipe.

The Beans

1 package dry pinto beans
I ham bone or two smoked ham hocks.
5 quarts water
3 T best quality chili or chile powder* no salt until the end

The Chili

1 pound ground chuck
1 large onion chopped
1 15 oz. can tomatoes
3 T best quality chili or chile powder* 1 T ground cumin
1 T dried oregano
salt to taste

To make the beans:

Pick over dried beans for unwanted bits by spilling them onto a dish or running them slowly onto your palm and then into a colander. Rinse and place in a 6 quart or larger soup pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil and let sit for an hour. Rinse again. The water will be a dark magenta color from the beans which will be the same, having lost the pinto pattern.
Place the beans back in the pot, with the ham bone or hocks, the chile powder and the water. Bring to a boil and simmer as slowly as possible until the water has reduced almost to the point where it barely covers the, now swollen, beans. I do it over the course of a day or two but it can be done in 6 hours or so. It will also go faster if you start with less water but you must then monitor closely to make sure the beans are always covered.
Be very careful not to scortch, especially towards the end. You may skim the froth that rises to the surface (I do not) but be aware that you may be skimming off the chili powder. Remove the ham bone or hocks (which may have fallen apart by now). With a potato masher, mash approximately one third of the beans against the bottom of the pot. The beans should now have a very thick, almost glossy texture. Taste for seasoning - they should have a pronounced ham flavor - and add salt if needed.

To make the chili:

Break apart the ground meat and saute it with the onion until it loses it red, raw look. Do not brown the meat, as you want it "soft". Add the tomatoes and seasoning and stir to blend. Add the meat mixture to the bean mixture and reheat, again being very careful not to scortch.

Serve piping hot with warm tortillas or corn chips, grated cheese, chopped onion and salsa.

* The flavor is very dependant on the quality of the seasonings.
Unfortunately, most commercial chili powders (dried chiles, cumin, oregano and other stuff) taste mostly of garlic salt. Try to get a good brand from mail order or a specialty store. From the same sources you can get ground chile powder, which is pure chile - no cumin or oregano. I use a combination of both. Make sure what you use tastes and smells of chile. I should say that I find that cayenne pepper, the most readily available chile powder and an excellent product, delivers too much heat and not enough chile flavor for this dish.

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Rich Potato Salad

4 large or six medium potatos
1 bunch scallions
3 hard cooked eggs - yolks only
1/3 C. cidar vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 C. mayonaise

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until tender. Drain. As soon as you can stand it, cut into 1 inch dice (the peels will come off as you cut) and immediately sprinkle with vinegar. For best flavor, the vinegar should go on them while they are warm. Peel and chop scallion and add to potatoes, tossing. They may be prepared ahead to this point and then kept, covered loosely. When cool, break up the egg yolks and add, tossing well. Add mayonaise to cover all ingredients and salt to taste.
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Winter Salad

1 quarter head of cabbage - sliced very fine 3 large carrots - grated
3 large scallions - chopped

Combine and toss with favorite vinegrette. Let sit for an hour or so.
Serve on a bed of torn romaine leaves.
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Updated: January 13, 1997
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