Ever since the chili cookoff, I've had chili on my mind. The third place chili at the cookoff was a masala chili made by a woman who teaches Indian cooking classes here in Austin. Her masala chili and coconut chili were two of my favorites, and I'm glad she won.
I kept thinking about her masala chili all week, so I pulled out my copy of 660 Curies by Raghavan Iyer. Sometimes I think all the choices in this book have kept me from making more recipes. How do I pick which of the 660 curries to make? But this time, I opened the book with an agenda. I wanted to make rajmah, or kidney beans. I found a recipe for tamatar malai rajmah (slow-stewed tomato sauce with kidney beans), and it was exactly what I wanted.
The recipe turned out pretty well, though not as rich as I would have liked, but that's because I modified it. It calls for 1/4 cup fried onion paste, and that's one of the other reasons I haven't made many recipes from this book. Many call for small amounts onion paste or another kind of paste, but the recipes for these pastes make large amounts and don't keep long in the refrigerator. All that waste annoys me. And I'm pretty lazy. Instead I sauteed diced onion. I also left out the 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream the recipe calls for since Dewey is still on a low-fat diet.
But still, my chili craving wasn't over. Dewey has been asking for cholent lately, so it was the perfect time to make Jewish chili. Cholent is a stew that Jews make for Shabbat, when they can't cook any food. Cholent is started in a slow cooker or on a hot plate just before sunset on Friday night, it cooks all night long at low heat, and then it's eaten at Saturday lunch. Such a long cooking time, even at low heats, makes the beans and vegetables really soft, but in a good, comfort food way.
1 T oil
4-5 cloves garlic
3 red or yukon gold potatoes
2 1/2 cups mixed dried beans*, soaked for 8 hours
1/2 cup bulgur
vegetable bouillion cube**
12 ounces dark beer
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoons tarragon
2 teaspoons thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Turn on the slow cooker and heat the oil. Chop the potatoes and carrots into large pieces. You want them to be fairly large because they're going to cook so long. Add the onions and garlic to the slow cooker, cover, and let cook for about half an hour. Add the potatoes, carrots, drained beans, and bulgur. Add the bouillon cube and enough water to cover the beans. Add the beer, soy sauce and all the spices except for the salt and stir. Cover and cook 6-12 hours***, stirring occasionally. Once the beans are soft, add the salt. If the beans look dry, add more water. Eventually, the liquid will thicken into a tasty brown sauce. When you're ready to eat, adjust the salt to your taste.
*I used chickpeas, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, split peas, and lentils. Really, any combination of dried beans, peas, or lentils will work, just be sure to use at least three kinds.
**Feel free to use vegetable broth in place of the bouillon cube, or even just water and a bit more soy sauce.
***I know this is a big range for a cooking time, but this is a recipe that is meant to be flexible.