Fussy Babies & Fussy Recipes

Fussy Recipe

I’m afraid my love affair with Cook’s Illustrated might be coming to an end. Unfortunately, fussy babies and fussy recipes do not mix.

I’m home with the little one and I’m looking for food that will sustain us during this winter’s bitter cold and can be made with either a child in arms or during nap-time. Surely, chili completely fits the bill--hearty, warming, freezes well, can perk along on the stove. That’s how I usually think of chili but not so at Cook’s Illustrated.

None of the ingredients were especially weird but I really don’t keep Arbol chiles in the house even though we live in the Southwest. Also, we had to acquire a chuck roast, which is not a terribly expensive cut of beef but four pounds of it added up in cost.

The recipe called for a chile paste, soaked & brined (Local NM) pinto beans, cubed and browned beef, sautéed aromatics and several hours in the oven. It was the several hours in the oven that I thought would make this recipe a go. So I set out.

Forty-eight hours later we had chili and an exhausted cook. On Sunday, I set the beans to brining which actually was a pre-cooking step rather than just soaking. Okay, still good, child is still napping. Then I set out to make the chile paste. This is where things went off the rails. It got done but I had an unhappy baby and still no dinner.

With an extra set of hands helping the following day, beef was browned (a rather long process unless you have a very large skillet), aromatics were sautéed and the whole kit-and-caboodle was put in the oven to perk away. We ate it for dinner and it was pretty good. However, we had several pots to wash that were used in the making.

Having made several things from Cook’s Illustrated I should have known this was going to be time consuming because the recipe's essay was three pages long. The longer the essay, the more time they spent perfecting it and the more complicated it will be for mere mortals. That realization was the deciding factor in my new personal rule: Until I have more time, I’m not cooking any of their recipes that take up more than one page in the magazine.

I flagged several recipes under this new criterion from back issues and we’re going to give it a try. I might just have to settle for pretty good for a while rather than a vetted best. Sorry, Christopher Kimball.