Friday, February 16, 2018

Blasphemous Chili - cooked in an electric pressure cooker!

When I was growing up, the only chili was chili mac. There was no Texas chili or Cincinnati chili.

Chili was ground beef, beans, and elbow mac in a tomato-y sauce. That's what my mom made, and that's what was served in the school cafeteria.

It was the only chili that existed in my universe.

It was the first "meal" that I cooked for the family, when I was trying to earn a Girl Scout badge. I waffled between chili and spaghetti, but chili seemed more complicated, so that's what I chose. Oyster crackers might have been involved, and I might have made a salad. Dinner was served.

My mother cried. Because it was the first meal she made for my dad when they were newlyweds. Which is completely ridiculous, because they were Polish and living in the midwest, where chili was not a big deal.

Polish cuisine is not known for spicy foods, although they do love their black pepper. But spicy peppers? Nah, those didn't exist. And midwest food wasn't particularly spicy at that time, either. We had plenty of bell peppers, but jalapenos were unknown in my neighborhood.

But she made chili mac for my dad, and I made chili mac for a badge.

I was a little disappointed that it was so simple. It took some time to make because she simmered the beans and meat for quite a while. But it was very very simple to assemble. You know, with canned kidney beans in the starring role.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that most chili didn't include the mac. And then my head nearly exploded when I found out about chili without beans! Whoa, nellie! And then (drumroll please), green chili was a whole new world of wonder.

Although my taste buds have grown up and I like spicy foods now, I still like the comfort foods of my childhood, and that includes (gasp!) Chili Mac.

Sorry about the weird kitchen lighting!
So, when I bought a pressure cooker cookbook put out by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, I decided to give the chili mac a try.

Although I've been using a pressure cooker for a long time, pasta is not something that I tend to cook in there. Pasta cooks fast enough. Why do I need to pressure cook it?

But still, I figured it would be a good test of the book, and the pressure cooker (I'm testing a new one.) So I plunged right in.

Unlike my mom's recipe, this didn't have beans. But it did have corn. And it's spicier than what mom made. I'd have to say that although it had the same comfort factor, it felt a little ... more modern. The corn, you know. Not what mom used.

Overall, I really liked this, and I certainly can't argue with the one-pot ease. The pasta was a little more cooked than I would have preferred, but it wasn't totally dead, and it was still fine when I reheated. So it wasn't overcooked. And ... since pressure cookers are not identical, some adjustments in cooking time are to be expected.

The flavor was good. Just enough spice so I wasn't tempted to add hot peppers, but not overly spicy. Of course, that can be controlled by adjusting the chili powder and the spice level of the canned peppers, so you can make it more or less hot to suit your own taste.

Other things can be easily adjusted, too. Add more onions, or different meats, or even add (gasp! puff! gasp!) some beans.

In any case, I'm keeping this as part of my lazy cooking repertoire, when I want something comforting and easy, and I don't want spaghetti.

Tex Mex Chili Mac
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen Pressure Cooker Perfection
I made this in an electric pressure cooker, so that's the instructions I'm including.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine (I left mine a little larger than fine)
1 green pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I cut mine a little smaller)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
2 cups water
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce (I had 2 8-ounce cans, so mine had just a little more)
8 ounces (2 cups by volume) elbow macaroni
1 cup frozen corn
1 4.5 ounce can chopped green chiles (these are available in mild, medium, and hot, so you can control the heat)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper
4 ounces shredded cheese, for serving

Heat the oil in your pressure cooker until it's shimmering. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, stirring as needed.

Add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne and cook for another 30 seconds.

Stir in the ground beef. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until you no longer see any pink.

Add the water, tomato sauce, and macaroni.

Put the lid on the pressure cooker and make sure the vent is closed.

Pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes, then quick-release the pressure. (I'm going to try 4 minutes next time, to see if I like the texture of the pasta better. If it's not quite done, I can always cook a little longer after the pressure is released.) Remove the lid.

Stir in the corn and chiles and simmer until the corn is tender and the pasta is cooked to your liking. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper as desired.

Serve with a sprinkle of grated cheese. I've also been known to stir in a little sour cream or yogurt, as well.

Check out the book here: