Everyone's A Critic

While people usually get excited about the prospect of free food, sometimes I think my friends are secretly afraid.

Because they know it comes with follow up questions.

Is it too dry?

Too salty?

Too sweet?

Too tofu?

I can always see them analyzing the food a little bit trying to figure out if I snuck something weird in there.

Then as they take initial bites, I am furiously trying to gauge their reaction while being as inconspicuous as possible  which really amounts to an a herculean effort to assess any facial twitches using only my peripheral vision.

If they hesitate before answering the post-mastication quiz, I automatically assume they hate it and mentally scrap the recipe in my head.

I am very critical of my food.

The vision in my head almost never translates to the final product.

And sometimes I think people are just being nice when they tell me something tastes good.

But I know something is good when someone asks for the recipe.

Requested Recipe:


A black bean chili cooked in dark, roasty beer and topped with fire roasted tomatoes, crispy romaine, cilantro, and green onion. Choose a good, dark beer for the best flavor.

For Black Bean Layer:

1 large onion, chopped (reserve half for tomato layer)

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 (12 oz) bottle of dark beer (see tidbit)

2 teaspoons honey (optional)

salt + pepper to taste

For tomato layer:

1/2 large onion, chopped (reserved from beans)

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 (14.5 oz) cans fire roasted tomatoes (no salt added), drained

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake

1/8 teaspoon salt

pinch pepper

For Romaine Layer:

1 cup chopped romaine

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

3 green onions, sliced

In a large pot, saute onion, celery, and garlic in 2 teaspoons of olive oil until soft.

Add black beans, beer, and chili powder.

Cook over high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 10 minutes).

Continue cooking over medium heat for another 20 minutes or until mixture is thick and almost no liquid remains.

Salt and pepper to taste.

While black beans are cooking, add remaining onion and oil to medium sized pot and cook until soft.

Add drained tomatoes and red pepper flake and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.

When liquid has evaporated from both the beans and the tomatoes, pour beans into serving dish.

Layer the tomato mixture on top.

Toss the romaine, cilantro, and green onion together.

Sprinkle the romaine mixture on top of the tomatoes just before serving.

*Tidbit: I chose a bitter stout beer brewed with coffee for this recipe and added honey off-set the bitterness. Any not-too-sweet porter or stout will work here but a nice lager or ale would be equally delicious.

If you ask for one of my recipes, you become the recipient of all my future culinary adventures by default.

Please neatly print your critique on white copy paper and don’t forget to add your name, date, and willingness to participate in future taste-testing nonsense.

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