Retro Recipe: White Bean and Pork Chili

Ah, 1987.
I just ran through wikipedia looking for really memorable events . . . and big surprise, I don't actually remember really any of them. I was four, and Raffi was pretty cool stuff.
I didn't find anything much for 1983 (my actual birth year, that being the theme for this month's Retro Recipe Challenge), but a few years' leeway allowed me to find a recipe for White Bean and Pork Chili which fits in nicely with my personal current theme of using up things that are already in my kitchen. When I was four, I guarantee you I never would have eaten anything at all like this recipe, which --- eee-yew! -- has different kinds of foods mixed and touching each other. Not that I was a picky eater, but stews were pretty much just completely out of the question, and soup even was out of the question unless it was Campbell's. To my parents' chagrin, I refused to touch their homemade chicken noodle. This was probably because the different types of food were readily identifiable as being of vegetable, chicken, noodle, et cetera, whereas Campbell's not necessarily. I thought it would be nice to take a good fall-ish recipe like chili from that time to see how far I've come.

Turns out, my childhood instincts with this recipe were rather dead-on; the ingredients would be better separate than together. Not that it's bad, just not very interesting. In staying true to the retro, I resisted urges to doctor it up and play around with it (with exception to the bay leaf, which I added before I realized it didnt actually call for one, and the seasonings, which just went straight in the pot as there wasn't anything to deglaze). As is, it's a fairly mediocre affair, which led me to several conclusions . . . .One: it is really difficult to take an appetizing-looking photo of something like chili.
Two: At a 1/2 inch dice, the pork was cooked through before it had really even browned, resulting in slightly tough meat with not much meat flavor to it. This dish could be a contender if made with a more well-marbled, less lean bit like pork shoulder or boneless country ribs, cut in 1-2 inch chunks and dredged in seasoned flour before browned.
Three: There's not enough liquid. The one cup of broth called for was gone at the 1/2 hour mark, and after pouring in the rest of the can there was barely any at the end to coat all the beans. Another 1/2 cup at least of liquid - broth, wine, water even - plus the full can would be more on target.
Four: The meager seasonings get lost in here. Start off with the triple the chili powder and cumin, and don't bother enticing me in with the word 'sage' unless you mean it.
Five: Speaking of a lack of flavor, 2 cans of rinsed, drained beans added just before serving did nothing for me. Add them 30-40 minutes into the hour to allow them to break down and absorb a bit.
Six: Keebler TownHouse Cornbread crackers are awesome. They and monterey jack cheese saved the chili.

UPDATE: After massive amounts of seasonings and two days later, it's actually a pretty decent thing. I don't tend to use celery and carrot in chili, so it was a nice addition. The meat is a bit more tender now, but the flavor would still be improved with another cut. I recommend, if you can, making a day ahead to let it meld.

from Bon Appetit, June 1987

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
~ 1 c chopped baby carrots
2 medium celery stalks, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pound pork loin, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/8 tsp sage
1 bay leaf
1 standard can beef broth
1 14 1/2-oz can peeled diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

heat 2 Tbsp oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Pat pork dry. Add the skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes (I don't know where they get that number).
Add pork to vegetables. Blend the seasonings and stir. Add the broth. Add tomatoes with liquid and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until pork is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
Add beans to mixture and stir until heated through. Serve warm, topped with shredded cheese.


Blogger Laura Rebecca said...

I'm just relieved you weren't born in '87. ;)

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least you had the 80's, finding something in the 70's was next to impossible.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! I'd actually gone and printed this out as I was planning on making it! Ah well, considering how unimpressed with it you were, I'm glad I decided to blog-browse tonight before going shopping tomorrow!

4:38 AM  
Blogger Brilynn said...

I agree, chili is not a nice thing to photograph... Basically anything that's sort of brownish is hard to photograph, no matter how tasty it might be.

1:53 PM  
Blogger emily said...

LR - Me too.

Peabody - You did a great job though!

Ellie - I'm so glad I could save you. Really. There aren't many leftovers that end up in my disposal, but this did.

Brilynn - You're absolutely right. Some things are just camera-shy.

6:49 PM  

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