Someone — a Texan, naturally — once wrote that beans and tomatoes have no place in a pot of chili. Purist to the core, he promoted the gospel that real Texas chili is about three things: chili peppers, meat and time. He even lorded that position over a colleague who had other ideas of what might go in that pot.
Well, the Texas boy is now a vegetarian and would like to issue the following humble statement: I take it all back.
Other parts of the country have long had their own ideas about chili, naturally, and now that I’m not eating meat I’m decidedly more open to the melting-pot approach. All of a sudden, chili has been freed from the chains of authenticity, and I can think of it in the way most people do: as a really good stew.
It’s that mind-set that led me to a recipe in Giada De Laurentiis’s new book, “Giada’s Feel Good Food” (Clarkson Potter), for Chili Verde, her own vegetarian twist on another style traditional to New Mexico. The real thing calls for pork to be braised in Hatch chilies and seasonings; this one combines potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, hominy, fresh and canned chilies and more for a warming winter stew.
Frankly, I thought it needed something, and my decision to add it might strike some as particularly ironic. I opened a can, drained and rinsed the contents, and stirred them into the pot.
White beans. Apologies to my fellow Texans (and New Mexicans), but that made it perfect.