Sunday, August 27, 2006

To bean or not to bean


Melissa admits in the comments of a previous post that she, a native Texan, cooks her Texas Red with beans. That gave me pause, but I bit my tongue and said nothing. I used to become all biblical when people admitted they added beans to their chili because I was a firm believer that chili wasn’t true chili if it had beans; it was meat and bean soup. And yes, some places like Wendy’s serve a dish they call chili but it’s just ground beef, tomato and beans in broth. But I’ve realized that most people make their chili with beans, and I’ve had the pleasure of eating their spicy concoctions. And more often than not, it felt like a bowl of chili, never mind the beans. So if most of the world puts beans in their chili, does this make it the standard? I don’t know. I do know that I don’t add beans to my chili--it's just meat, chili peppers and secret spices. And to many of the uninitiated it seems bizarre. “What, no beans?” said one friend when I gave him a bowl (he was a NYC chili champion and yes, he uses beans). But he ate it, and while deeming it unlike any chili he’d ever had, it conceded it was still the best chili he’d ever had (OK, I’m not immodest about my Texas Red, but, hey, everyone needs one thing they’re good at, right?). So to bean or not to bean, that is the question. What do you think?

I will say this: if you’re going to add beans, and you’re going to add canned beans, you can only add one brand: Ranch Style Beans, made in Fort Worth, Texas. They used to be Husband Pleasin’ but a few years ago they became Appetite Pleasin’ (I reckon the company realized that the wife and kids enjoyed them, too). I don’t know if they sell these any place besides Texas (my supply comes from my mom who always puts a few cans in my Christmas stocking), but they are divine. Check them out if you've never had them.

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50 comments:

cybertoad said...

As a native Texas (Houstonian), I say there should be no beans in chili! (came over here from Flickr)

Homesick Texan said...

Hey Cybertoad, I'm a Houstonian, too. Thanks for the vote.

melissa mcgee said...

hmmm... i love spawning a good debate. you know my position on beans in chili. to me, the debate about beans in chili is something akin to religion - there may be more than one school of thought, but in the end, it's all still holy. chili, in texas, is certainly holy.

let me qualify also, that my chili isn't overly beany. i've had chili with beans before that was more beans than meat, and it was admittedly just WAY too beany. beans should complement the chili, bot overwhelm it.

also, i have to agree with your choice of bean - the ranch style (i remember when it was "husband pleasin') is the only way to go if you're gonna add canned beans - but when fall weather comes, there's nothing better than making a big ol' pot of beans, then adding some of those beans to the chili. the rest of the beans will be eaten separately or frozen for future bean feasting.

now i want some chili...

East-Meets-Midwest said...

As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, my experience with chili is skewed toward the ground beef,beans and chili powder variety topped with raw onions and cheese. Though I've always enjoyed such a feast, I've recently found beans a bit difficult to digest (a sad sad development as I age and become increasingly more sensitive) and am thrilled to hear about chili that is a pure meat and spice delight. I'm all for it. Plus, I always did hate when beans got in the way of my enjoyment of the carne - mmm...meat. The more the better.

Though there is also the New Mexican chili which is just red chili and water or green chili and pork that can be poured over anything you want. Great stuff.

Ken Wheaton said...

What about yummy vegetarian chili with no meat ... just tomatoes and carrots and tofu chunks. MMMMMM. Good. Tastes JUST sort of kind of like the real thing.

Hahaha. I kid. I kid.

At any rate, I think comparing Texas Chili to "East of Texas" Chili is sort of like comparing Manhattan Clam Chowder with New England Clam Chowder. Just two different beasts.

For the record, for my NYC champion chili (cough, cough... it's hard to say that with a straight face considering the competition), I just used plain old UNSEASONED canned beans. As long as you rinse them very very well to get the gack off of them... and keep them in the pot a long time to let them soak up the goodness.

matt said...

RANCH STYLE BEANS!!!!!



YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Homesick Texan said...

Melissa, you are so right: nothing beats a big, steaming pot of cooked beans (I'm just going to keep them out of the chili.)

East-meets-Midwest, since you've never had meat-only chili, I'll invite you over when I make a batch.

Ken, I like your reasoning. I'll invite you and the missus over when I make a batch as well.

Matt, I just KNEW you'd go ga-ga over Ranch Style Beans! I want that old Husband Pleasin' guy on a T-Shirt.

Monica said...

Homesick Texas I'm worried about you - come home. You've been livin' outside of Texas too long if this question is even a matter of debate. Chili (w/an i) is bean free. And please let's leave Cincinnati out of this whole thing - the spaghetti thing is too much for my delicate constitution.

Speaking of chile - it's Hatch festival time - yummy.

Banjo Jones said...

Texans pride themselves on their individualism, thus there is no right or wrong way to prepare to chili. In the rich pageant that is Texas, some use beans, some don't. Live and let live.

Jill said...

Texan in Philly, here; found your blog through Houstonist (I write for the Philly sister site). I've had a helluva time getting Ranch Style beans here, too; Mom sends them, along with all the fixins for Authentic Mexican Food (tm) a couple times a year.

Austin Jernigan said...

My Texas roots are deep, going back at least three generations on both sides of the family, including ancestors who arrived by wagon train. And yet, I'm a first generation chili con carne maker.

I will not refer to my chili as "kickass" even though it is. It's all about using lots of fresh, pure chili powder, and just the right amount of cayenne powder and cumin, added to beef that has been sauteed in an iron skillet with onion and garlic and mixed in with diced tomatoes, not tomatoe sauce, and cooked for a couple of hours. It's good after a couple of minutes, better after an hour or two.

I've never added beans but I'm open-minded. True Texans are open-minded. It would be healthier with beans. It's probably best to cook the beans on the side. But I can see where, if you soaked the beans then added them to the chili con carne, it could be delicious.

Again, true Texans are open-minded.

Austin said...

Hey, another Texan (Houstonian) in NYC here and I am a firm believer in no beans in Chili. Can't wait to read about your taco tour. Been dying to find some decent tacos in this town.

Nicole said...

I'm from California and I like chile both with and without the beans. My chile always has beans because I love them and they are good for you. Usually I start with dried kidney beans rather than canned. But I do eat "Ranch Style Beans" as a side dish or in casseroles occasionally. They're good!

Homesick Texan said...

Thanks for all the comments, I'm excited that everyone has such strong opinons!

Jill in Philly: is there any good Mexican in the Philadelphia area we should know about?

Austin in NY: have you found any hidden taco treasures in the 5 boroughs we should know about?

Nicole: I had no idea Ranch Style Beans were sold beyond the Texas state lines. Cool! If you come up to Torino for the Slow Food conference, let me know and I'll bring you a can.

Homesick Texan said...

Also: Austin Jernigan is a wonderful man I've known my entire life. And his food is some of the most "kick ass" food I've ever tasted. When I say I'm homesick, often times I'm thinking of dishes he's made. Fortunately, he's a generous man who shares some of his culinary bounty at the holidays.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fourth generation Texan on both sides of the family and my grandpa was chairman of the Collin County (TX) Cattleman's Association. If any of that counts for anything.

OK - here goes - when I heat up a can of Wolf Brand I add a quarter cup dark chili powder and a heaping tablespoon of cumin and beans (pinto or black) AND a can of drained carrots. And some of my favorite chili is a vegetarian chili made at a restaurant off Music Row in Nashville.

I think the main ingredient of chili is dark chili powder and lots of it.

Of course if I truly have my druthers I relish Wick Fowler's 2 Alarm mix with chunks of red meat.


Richard Jernigan (brother of Austin J.) - Dallas

Homesick Texan said...

Richard J. introduced me to the magic of masa. He also makes a killer salsa, a recipe so fresh, easy and tasty you'll never pick up a bottle of Pace again.

monica said...

What about beans in Frito Pie chili? Our Austin office is split on beans in chili in general, but even the bean proponents wouldn't put beans in Frito Pie.

sara said...

no beans for this native dallasite and friend of melissa. i like it meaty, tomato-ey, and a little chocolaty/

i love me some beans, especially with some cornbread, but not in my chili. just can't do it.

Anonymous said...

My friend Rob, a Texan via Missouri makes some of the best homemade chili I have been privy to, and he uses three types of beans. Maybe I have been out of Texas too long.
If the chili is hot and makes me yearn for an ice cold bottle of Lone Star, then it passes the test. If I feel the need to break up some saltines to give it flavor and texture, I'll pass on that.
Throw some pan seared hamburger with peppers, onion, and heavy spice my way, I'll be in heaven. Just don't serve me bland beef stew and call it chili.

Homesick Texan said...

Mmmmmm...chocolate. An excellent "secret" ingredient.

laanba said...

Wow, I guess I find myself on the wrong side, even though I have lived in Texas since I was three. I like beans in my chili. I probably have my family to blame for that. I'm not sure but you can bet I will be asking at Thanksgiving! I might as well fess up all my crimes and admit that I don't like iced tea! Please don't kick me out of the state! :-)

metalrat said...

Beans in chilli...sigh!!!!! All I can say is if you want beans in your chilli then call it "bean chilli". or "chilli with beans". Chilli was invented as a way to eat crappy pieces of meat and a bunch of cheap cooks later started adding beans as filler. I like beans (esp. ranch style) and I like chilli.But never the twain shall meet.

Anonymous said...

NO NO NO Beans!!!! Not in Texas Red!!! You want chile con carne out of Betty Crockers' cookbook, served over rice (AGGGHHHHH!!!!,) go ahead and add your Progresso kidney beans. UGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Please, don't mess up a good thing ... texas red is no beans, no tomato, just meat, peppers, spices.

Janice said...

I'm a homesick Texan too! Out near Chicago. I ran across your blog when I was asking my mom to bring me Ranch Style Beans and I drew a blank. All I could remember was the "husband pleasin" part!

At any rate: great lookin' blog! And thanks for helping me jog my memory! Now I'll get Ranch Style Beans & Wolf Brand Chili when Mom & Grandmother come to visit in a couple of weeks!

I'll definitely keep an eye on your blog.

Kim said...

Absolutely no beans in chili! Texas chili is all about the meat.
Ranch style beans are the best though. My husband is from Maryland, and I have him hooked to ranch style beans. We both live in Florida now though. I had my parents sending me ranch style beans for a while too, but I finally found an excellent website to order them from.
http://store.asianfoodcompany.com/
It's a great website. It offers all of the different varieties of ranch style beans you could possibly want. While I still don't agree about putting them in chili, I do think they're the only bean to put in tortilla soup.

Anonymous said...

oh my my..i saw this comment and it made me wanna cry. i am a homesick texan. i love ranch style beans and i can't find them here. i am in rhode island now and they don't even know what ranch style beans are. they do not know what they are missing.

brandy

Anonymous said...

I love em too. I'm from Aberdeen Scotland and made friends with a couple from Texas four years ago,when I first tasted them. My friends were shipped back to the states but they still send me a couple of cans of ranch syle beans in the mail from time to time. mmmmmmm
Love the beans, Charlie

Anonymous said...

I read your wonderful recipe for Texas Red. (Cant wait to try it.) I would never add beans to that version. It would be an evil thing to do. I make a Red Chili that is Tomato based. Its not soupy....but its not gravy like either. Its thick and chunky. I add kidney beans, and it tastes great in there.

-Born and raised in San Antonio, Spent a long haul in Colorado and currently living in Tennessee.

Beanless in Seattle said...

9/11/2007
Dear Melissa,
As a 4th Generation Houstonian who recently made a permanent move to the Pacific NW, my family and I were missing Ranch Style Beans (Yes, I, too, remember when they were "Husband Pleasin'!) I looked on the Web and GOOD NEWS - found I can order them online from www.foodlocker.com. I haven't explored what other items they sell that we miss, but I'm sure I will!

As to chili - husband likes beans in his (he is from Ohio)- daughter and I don't. However, we all also love "Cincinnati Chili" (Served over spaghetti with cheese!) - which they also do not sell up here!! It is so totally different from Texas Chili that there is no competition in this house - we love them both!! Anyway, all you homesick Texans - take a look at the Foodlocker website and see if it helps you, too!

Lyra said...

I have always eaten and made my chili with beans in it, but then I grew up in Belize, where a day without beans is a day without food. In fact, most of the time my chili is all beans and no meat (although I do enjoy the meat kind), because I only buy free range beef and that too expensive for my everyday budget.

But my chili does pack a real punch-and I always use cast iron for my cornbread, so I'm not a total loss;).

Great blog, btw. This is my first time on it, and I think I'm going to have to add you to my blogroll.

Elaine said...

My mother has always made her chili with an assortment of beans, but just the right amount not over powering. She won't give me the recipe till all my siblings are grown. :( But i do like white bean chili i think thats what its called. Well here in San Antonio is the only place i have seen the ranch style beans, i fly all over and i always come home to get groceries.

Lisa said...

I grew up in Austin but, strangely, we always had beans in our chili. I'm guessing it was an economical decision on the part of my family. It was always served with chopped onions and grated american or cheddar cheese, and often with cornbread on the side. My granny often just served thick slices of onion to eat with it instead of the chopped.

I did frequent the Texas Chili Parlor in downtown Austin. Dad and I would go on father/daughter "dates" there and eat chili and drink cuba libras. Good times. I think we had chili without beans there, but I can't be sure.

Now I usually make it with beans. I fresh cook the beans most of the time, but I do sometimes use canned (a very good canned variety, though). I grew up eating Ranch Style beans as a side to burgers, dogs, or BBQ. I can get it here (Phx), although sometimes only in a very large can. As I move away from processed food though, I eat them less because they do have some kind of funky ingredients in them. Perhaps someday I'll work on a homemade version.

LovesGoodFood said...

If you're making Chili, then add beans if you're making Chile con Carne, then No Beans.

Anonymous said...

I am a born and raised Texan (born in Houston and raised in San Antonio). I love chili and believe it should always be made with beans, but not just any beans 1 can of Ranch Style Beans and 1 can of Ranch Style brand Pinto beans with Jalapenos. There is no other way to eat chili if there are no beans all you got is tomato soup with ground beef.

David said...

My Metroplex Chili recipe includes a can of Fort Worth's Ranch Style Beans and a 12oz. can of Dallas' Dr. Pepper - These elements contribute to make for a "real" Texas chili.

Susan said...

We get Ranch Style Beans here in Sacramento CA and also previously bought them in Redding CA and Kingman AZ.

AND we put them in our chile!

el gato said...

Native South Texan (originally from Harlingen) now in Vermont, here. God, I miss RANCH STYLE BRAND beans. Found some places to order online... may have to do that.

badlittlemunky said...

I buy two cases of Ranch Style beans and several bottles of Tapatio every time I go back to Texas, for the Holidayas!

sirmarcos said...

I can't tell when the last comment was, since this post is 2 years old, but I too have left Texas, and was worried I'd not be able to find the Ranch Style beans. Fortunately, Publix carried them in Florida. In DC, it's proving harder. Safeway and Giant don't have them.

Fortunately, Harris Teeter seems to - including the new one that opened in DC proper. So, I don't have to buy them online or have my parents ship them to me!

Every non-Texan I introduce them to loves them though. :)

I agree with the original post though, no beans in chili.

Novelismo said...

Maybe it's like with Nachos .... and Real Nachos. Real Chili doesn't have beans. You might make some good beans maybe as a side dish to go near it. And a pan of rice might be a good idea too -- especially if it's hot as blazes. I know it's not difficult to make a passable beaned-up concoction, and evidently some people don't really mind the taste of hamburger. They're used to it. I guess you can get used to anything. But. Beef ground once through the coarse chopper still tastes like beef - not like hamburger. And if you're going to make chili with beans and probably tomatoes in it -- at least soak the beans overnight, and maybe try adding one can of refried beans just past the midway point. This will make for an unctuous and velvety mouthfeel. I leave adjusting the spice blend up to you. But can you really do better than anchos, cumin, salt and beef chunks? stewed together until tender. Some do add more vegetal ingredients; I never thought they improved the real chili. Now, theoretically, it ought to be possible to make sort of a real chili cassoulet slow roasted and annealed in the oven until the beef chunks, red kidney beans, anchos, cumin, salt onion and garlic seem ready for the apocatastasis of posterity. This is how we transmute fact and legend into myth. And after all, isn't cooking one of the arts where everything matters? But serving real chili to (literally) tasteless fools uninterested even in discussing the finer points of theory and practice is like watching the playoffs with idiots who don't appreciate the real importance of some moments in football basketball or baseball. What's the point? It takes courage to make a real effort. Hey, thanks for sparking up my appetite .... again. -- Novelismo

Anonymous said...

anyone that knows beans about chili knows chili don't got no beans.

Willie N.

Arizona Kid said...

I love the beans and I agree that ranch style is the best. Makes me hungry to think about!

Anonymous said...

Native Texasn living in Colorado!

NO BEANS IN REAL CHILI!!!!!

ZH G'ma said...

Ran into a mom & dgtr in our FL WalMart who said they were from Texas. Got to talking abt chili & beans & they told us about a "6 gun (?shooter) chili" - had 6 ingredients - Ranch style beans, ground beef, onion, diced tomato, ___?___ and ___?___. Haven't been able to find a recipe like that. Can anyone help??? Thx! (Native Wisconsinite - our chili always had kidney beans) Z'H G'ma

summre said...

I personally think beans are the best part of chili, but i'm vegetarian so it's my only real option.

Food Junkie said...

Beans in chili? Absolutely, it's just spiced meat otherwise. It's all about what you're used to and prefer. Doesn't seem odd that Texan insist on Texas beans when they don't even want beans in the chili? While red kidney beans - plain - are the defacto standard a mix of beans is way more interesting.

DTX said...

I know I'm waaaay late to the party here (5 years or so?) but I am a Tex-Pat too (Big D) - having just moved to NYC this month. I was in LA for the past 10 years and every grocery store out there carries Ft Worth's finest bean. The Ranch Style are a staple of my diet (my sister and I even have a killer band called Appetite Pleasin') and I just assumed they were nationwide now. However, I'm slowly realizing that I may not be able to find that beautiful bean anywhere in the tri-state area. Is this true? Will I have to start importing?! Help!

Tiffany Adkins said...

As a native Texas everyone I know puts beans in their Chili, BUT they serve it over rice. None of that noodle stuff. If you seve it over Fritos...it's frito pie lol...Authentic or not...what they guys eat at the deer camps, at the family get togethers....has beans, ya'll. Oh and ranch style beans in the black label can...I thought everyone ate that...Can you not buy it elsewhere, but Texas? They are so good you can eat them cold out of the can.

RobinH said...

my mom lives in DC and I was giving her the recipe to my Frito pie when she called me all in a huff and stated there's no such thing as a ranch style beans I couldn't believe that in DC they don't sell ranch style beans but they don't sell blue bell either what a travesty. The Frito pie just not going to be the same without them. I told her maybe some Bush grillin beans might be a decent replacement but there's nothing like Ranch style Beans.

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