Every month, our resident Chef Big Fat Panda puts together his amazing step-by-step, photo-filled posts where he and Chef Mickey show you their adventures in the kitchen cooking up Disney goodies! Today, Chef Big Fat Panda’s DIY Disney Recipes brings us another classic, one of Walt Disney’s personal favorites. (BTW: I had no idea you had to “sort” beans. Chef Big Fat Panda is so good to us.) Don’t forget to look for the hidden Mickeys! Take it away, Chef!
Hello! Chef BigFatPanda here! What an interesting cooking recipe this turned out to be – allow me to tell you:
I was very excited to come across the recipe entitled “Walt Disney’s Own Chili and Beans.” The cookbook says: “This was Walt Disney’s favorite meal, and this recipe, created by the Disneyland chefs, truly seemed to satisfy his palate. You’ll find it seasonally on the menu at some Disneyland restaurants, including the Plaza Inn and the River Belle Terrace.”
I thought it would be a great fall recipe as the weather begins to cool. I also felt it would be very easy and approachable. The truth is, I was wrong on both counts, BUT Mickey and I did save the day. Let’s get to the recipe before I get ahead of myself — but if I were you, I would not start cooking anything until you read my results. I am really looking for feedback on this one, both in ideas and from those of you that do recreate it.
As usual, the recipe’s instructions will be bolded for easy reference should you wish to print this out and skip my commentary. But then, could you still sleep at night?
The recipe says you will need (I disagree later):
2 pounds of Pinto Beans, dry
2 medium onions, sliced
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 pounds of lean ground beef
1 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
So, as I am picking up the ingredients, I realize they want dry beans and the whole easy and approachable concept is about to be thrown out the window. This meant we were going to need time to soak the beans. I’ve made great chilies with canned beans before, but I wasn’t about to go that rogue when it was reported as Walt’s favorite meal.
I did make do with some ingredients I already had. For instance, I had 1 large onion rather than 2 medium ones. I already had 2 cans (totaling 28 ounces) of “diced” tomatoes rather than the requested “chopped.” This brings me back to what I always say: “Don’t let the ingredients scare you.”
1. Wash and sort beans and soak overnight in cold water.
Oh Brother! It’s an all nighter! But I’m hungry now – into the microwave went the Lean Cuisine
Now, 2 pounds of beans is no joke. These little buggers are going to expand as well, so unless you halve the recipe you are going to need a big pot. Keep running and draining water over them to wash them a few times.
Sorting beans is literally checking for rocks or objects that might have gotten into the bean bag from the factory. It’s a long, laborious process of checking through them on a large flat surface but actually can be made into a fun game with kids. Children actually enjoy sorting beans.
After the beans are washed and sorted, you will want to add enough cold water to go over them a good few inches. A lot of the water may be absorbed overnight. Cover them to prevent evaporation.
Good morning little Beanie Babies! Today we can eat you!
2. Drain beans and place in a 2 quart saucepan. Add fresh water to cover by 2 inches. Add sliced onion and simmer, covered for 2 hours until tender.
Really, 2 whole hours of cooking? You bet ya, or more. We want tender beans. I covered the beans with water and added the hand sliced onion. The beans are under there.
3. Heat oil in a large pan and saute’ garlic. Add beef and celery and cook until lightly browned. Add chili powder, paprika, and thyme. Mix in chopped tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
It has to be a large pan to hold 2 pounds of meat, 1 cup of celery and 28 ounces of tomatoes. The fact that they think you have room to mix 2 pounds of beans in later tells me this recipe was not altered for the home cook.
4. When beans are tender, combine with meat, stirring gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. The recipe notes “An ice-cold beer goes best with this meal.”
It sound easy enough, just very time consuming and most people are not going to want to sort and soak beans overnight. But for something that tasted special, I would say it was worth it 100%.
This was not the case in my opinion.
Before I tear this recipe apart, and Oh Boy! I’m gonna — Let me tell you that I believe in simple flavors. If you watch great chefs through the years, they teach you that simple, identifiable flavors make much better dishes than ones where people felt the need to throw dozens of ingredients in just for the sake of complication.
That being said, this recipe DOES have simple flavors that really come through. Here is where it goes wrong:
I was unable to mix the beans with the meat as instructed. Not only did I not have a pot big enough (and I have gigantic pots), the amount of beans was tremendous. I keep thinking they made a misprint or I made a mistake, but my bag said 2 pounds as instructed. I thought it was much more realistic to spoon the beans into the mixture on an as-needed basis. So, I plated some beans and then added some of the tomato meat mixture.
While the recipe says “Salt & Pepper to taste,” I found it required a lot of salt. I think this was because no seasoning had occurred anywhere during the cooking process. I usually never have to add salt to any meal. My palate is one that enjoys flavor rather than salt. This was a very bland recipe.
I felt the onions, in with the bean cooking water, gave a nice flavor, but I would have preferred some onions also be added to the meat mixture as well.
Here is what I don’t understand: They asked for 1 teaspoon of Chili powder for this whole giant recipe. Surely, something is amiss. 1 teaspoon of Chili Powder or 1 teaspoon of anything gets lost in 2 pounds of meat and 2 pounds of beans with a load of other ingredients. It simply was NOT chili, nor did it have a hearty zesty chili flavor.
But, I still had something good on my hands. I had delicious beans and a healthy meat mixture. I used very lean beef and fresh veggies. What to do? What to do?
I consulted with Mickey and we decided this…
1. Keep the beans separate to use on an as needed/wanted basis
2. Use 3 teaspoons (at least) of Chili Powder (I chose Mexican style)
3. Next time, chop in some onion with the celery as well
4. Add some salt during cooking (just a bit)
5. For each serving, throw in a slice or two of Velveeta or American cheese
NOW WE HAD SOMETHING DELICIOUS – Really delicious. …And I am NOT a fan of processed cheeses at all — but a smooth, creamy, melting cheese is what this recipe needed to be saved. It’s not your expected red chili, etc.
I would love to know if Walt was on a restricted diet of some sort when he requested this and if there were any misprints in the book. I’d love to find out if you tried it — either the book’s way or my way.
I am very passionate about what I deliver here to you and hope you enjoy my honesty about not every recipe turning out as planned. I also will take full responsibility if the issue was my fault. So tell me what you think in the comments section below.
I hope to bring you more great, and possibly more frequent recipes in the near future.
Once again, thank you for allowing me into your kitchen with peachy vigor! Big Hugs to all of you and keep wishing on those stars!
Thanks again, John! Remember, all, you can watch for Chef Big Fat Panda’s column posts right here! Who knows what he’ll make for us next month!