By Sandy Holthaus
I read this story the other day from my Facebook friend Tom Palen. He is an excellent writer who lives on the North Shore in Silver Bay. You should check out his posts every Wednesday for his invaluable insights. I am sharing Burnt Chili with you with his permission.
My mom LaVonne is blessedly with me, living happily in Schroeder. I hear her voice in Tom’s story and because I am sure it happened on more than one occasion during my childhood of washing dishes. And again, thank you Tom Palen for this story.
Through a combined series of misfortunes, distractions, and sheer stupidity on my part, I managed to burn two gallons of homemade chili in the pot on the stove. The putrid burnt flavor made its way through the whole pot, so I threw away the chili. I scraped an inch of burned beans, meat, and tomatoes from the bottom of the pan, exposing that really hard, burned black stuff. Charcoal had nothing on this pan. I put some soap and water in the pan and left it to soak overnight.
I went back the following day, looked into the pan assessing the damages, and decided to just throw it away. That’s when it happened.
I heard my mother’s voice saying, “Don’t you dare! You get over to that sink and clean that pan right now.”
I sassed back, “You can’t tell me what to do. I am an adult now!”
I could feel Mom’s presence as I scrubbed on the charred bottom of the pan, I tried to reason with her, “Look at this mess – let’s just throw the pan away and get another one.”
It was an expensive pan, a nice stainless steel 10-quart pot with sturdy side handles, and a vented glass lid. My wife bought it for me as a gift. I was sure it was ruined. “Keep scrubbing.” I heard the voice say.
“It’s not coming out,” was my plea of defense.
“Use Comet,” she replied.
I argued, “but it’s … ”
I scrubbed and scrubbed that pan with Comet and a green scratchy pad, then rinsed the pan. Then, feeling it was good enough, I started to put it in the strainer when the voice clarified, “It’s not clean. There’s still more in the pan.” Admittedly, there were still a few black spots.
Again, considering throwing the pot away, I looked over both shoulders. I couldn’t see her, but still I was sure Mom was watching from somewhere around the corner to see that this didn’t happen.
After the final scrubbing, I rinsed the pan. Finally, I looked into the bottom of a once again shiny stainless-steel pan. I felt a warm pat on my shoulder, and heard a softer voice asking, “Now, aren’t you glad you didn’t throw away that perfectly good pan?”
I took another glance over my shoulder. No one was there. I examined my fingertips; they were pink and tender from scrubbing with the abrasives. My wrist ached a bit from the odd angle used reaching into the deep pot. I quipped to myself, “People should not be able to talk from the grave.”
The voice replied, “I heard that.”
As I dried the pan, I thought about how much I miss those days in the kitchen with my mom and the lessons she taught me. They were lessons about cooking and cleaning, right from wrong, living, loving, and believing. Lessons about not wasting anything – food, or pans.
Shared with the written permission of Tom Palen, a North Shore writer.
White Chicken Chili
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 (14.5 oz.) cans of low-sodium chicken broth
1 (7 oz.) can diced green chilies
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (8 oz.) pkg. Neufchatel cheese (a.k.a. light cream cheese), cut into small cubes
1 1/4 cups frozen or fresh corn
2 (15 oz.) cans cannellini beans
2 1/2 cups shredded cooked rotisserie or left-over chicken
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
Tortilla chips or strips, Monterey jack cheese, sliced avocado for serving
Heat olive oil in a 6-quart enameled dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 4 minutes. Add garlic, and sauté 30 seconds longer.
Add chicken broth, green chilies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne pepper, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture just to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Drain and rinse beans in a fine-mesh strainer or colander, then measure out 1 cup. Set whole beans aside; transfer 1 cup beans to a food processor along with 1/4 cup broth from soup, purée until nearly smooth.
Add Neufchatel cheese to soup along with corn, whole beans, and puréed beans, and stir well. Simmer 5-10 minutes longer.
Stir in chicken, fresh lime juice, and cilantro. Serve with Monterrey Jack cheese, more cilantro, avocado slices, and tortilla chips if desired.
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup shredded carrots
1-2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup bulgur, rinsed
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (about 2 medium or 6 plum tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 (15-oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium-
high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and jalapeño and sauté, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the bulgur, chili powder, and cumin, and stir until well combined.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, for about 1 hour. Season with salt to taste. Serve with a sprinkling of cilantro, if desired.
Classic Crock Pot Chili
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
3 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15 oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
Heat olive oil in a large and deep non-stick skillet over medium-
Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, then add garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer. Pour onions into a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker.
Return skillet to medium-high heat, add beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef has browned.
Drain most of the fat from beef, leaving about 2 Tbsp. in with the beef. Pour browned beef into the slow cooker.
Stir into the slow cooker the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cocoa powder, sugar, coriander, and season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 5-6 hours.
Stir in dark and light red kidney beans and allow to heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm with desired toppings.