Recipes Like This Give Me Absolution
I recently made a flan and it almost did not end well.
I hadn’t made it in a while, but at one point way back when, years ago, I made it so much that when I went back to it, I didn’t really read the instructions carefully.
When you do it right, you take it out of the oven, flip it over onto a plate, and the gorgeous brown caramel waves over the silky flan and stays that way for hours.
To start, I almost over-toasted the coconut, but tossed it on a cool granite counter at the last minute and saved it.
Then I cooked up a cup of sugar in a skillet to make the caramel. But then I sat down to read. Uh-oh. It burned. With another cup of sugar, and another skillet, and paying attention this time, it worked.
But then, as I turned the caramel into the baking dish, I realized I’d misread the recipe: it needed 1 ½ cups of sugar and I should have used an 8-inch pan, not the 9-inch.
I managed to salvage the dessert, but it reminded me to heed my maxim: Like a carpenter measures twice and cuts once, read twice before cooking once. And all’s well that ends well. I even was able to save the first skillet with lots of elbow grease.
This weekend I wanted something easier, something that required little to no precision. I made a big pot of marinara with sweet and hot sausage. Then I made Cincinnati 5-Way Chili.
I love this dish. Recipes like this one gives me absolution: If you don’t have all the spices and don’t want to add spaghetti and prefer to deep-six the beans, it’s still delicious. You can eat this 3-way (spaghetti, chili, beans); 4-way (3-way plus onions or cheese); or go all the way 5-way (spaghetti, chili, onions, beans, and cheese). Put it on a hot dog. Stuff it in a grilled cheese sandwich. It goes great it burritos, too. Have it any old way you want to.
Lee White of Old Lyme has been a food editor and restaurant reviewer for more than 25 years. You can email her at email@example.com.
Cincinnati 5-Way Chili
Adapted from USA Cookbook by Sheila Lukins (Workman, New York, 1997)
Yield: serves 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground beef (or 1 pound ground beef
and 1 pound ground lamb)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground
allspice, coriander and ground cardamom
1 28-ounce can plum or crushed tomatoes
(Muir Glen if you have it)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound spaghetti or linguine
2 can (15 ½ ounces each) dark red kidney
beans, rinsed and drained, for garnish
4 to 6 scallions (3 inches green left one),
thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
½ (one-half) pound grated Monterey Jack
cheese, for garnish
Place oil and onions in a heavy pot over low heat, and cook, stirring, until wilted, 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Crumble in the beef (or beef and lamb, if you are using) and raise the heat to medium. Brown well, stirring often to break up the clumps, 10 minutes. Remove any excess fat from the pot.
Add cocoa and all the spices to the meat and cook, stirring, for 1minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste, vinegar, and honey. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the flavors are well blended, 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, then season generously with salt and pepper, to taste. (You can now turn off the heat and cover the chili until ready to serve, up to 3 or 4 hours. If not ready to use ‘til tomorrow, refrigerate. Bring to a simmer before serving.)
Shortly before serving, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti or linguine until just tender, about 10 minutes. Heat the beans in a covered saucepan over low heat.
Drain pasta thoroughly. Divide the pasta among six shallow pasta bowls. Top with the chili, then the kidney beans, scallions, and grated cheese. Serve immediately.