In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and wanting to take a break from reading, thinking, and writing about nuclear energy, I’m offering my tried and true, and now “world famous” cooking instructions for something completely different.
By Sunday night you will be stuffed, fed up, literally, and figuratively, with turkey. Instead of food fit for pilgrims, try food invented to be eaten in the wide open west — chili.
Cook this dish on Saturday. Eat it on Sunday. Take it to work for lunch on Monday.
These instructions take about an hour to complete. This chili has a few more vegetables and beans than some people might like, but we’re all trying to eat healthy these days. Although the name of this dish has the word “nuclear” in it, it isn’t all that hot on the Scoville scale. If you want some other choices for nuclear chili there are lots of recipes on Google
The beer adds sweetness to the vegetables, as does the brandy, and is a good broth for cooking generally. In terms of the beer, which is an essential ingredient, you’ll still have five cans or bottles left to share with friends so there’s always that.
Remember, good chili requires good beer. Do not cook with “light” beer. It’s a very bad idea! Your dinner guests will not forgive you.
I recommend dark beers or amber ales such as Negra Modelo or Anchor Steam for drinking with this dish and Budweiser or any American pilsner for cooking it. Other choices for drinking include local western favorites such as Moose Drool or Black Butte Porter, and regional amber ales like Alaskan Amber or Fat Tire.
The men and women running the reactors couldn’t drink beer at the site, but they did have coffee. It’s still that way today.
History and Culture Behind the Cooking Instructions
Scoville, Idaho, is the destination for Union Pacific rail freight for the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) way out on the Arco desert. The line comes up from Blackfoot, ID, using the UP spur that connects the UP main line south to Pocatello with Idaho Falls, and, eventually, north to Butte, MT.
There is no town by the name of “Scoville,” but legend has it that way back in the 1950s & 60s, when the Idaho National Laboratory was called the National Reactor Testing Station, back shift workers on cold winter nights relished the lure of hot chili hence the use of the use of the name ‘Scoville” for shipping information.
Another thing about the name “Scoville” is that when the early days of the ‘Cold War’ with Russia was in high gear anything involving the transport of nuclear materials, like spent fuel from U.S. Navy ships and submarines, got an operational security cover name.
The Arco desert west of Idaho Falls is both desolate and beautiful. In winter overnight temperatures on the Arco desert can plunge to -20F or more. Bus riders on their way to work in the early morning hours have sometimes been astonished to see the aurora borealis full of streaming electrons in the skies overhead of the sagebrush landscape.
On a clear winter morning, before the sun rises, as the bus heads toward the site in its 45 minute trip west on US 20, and reaches the top of the rise to Signal Hill, a rider can see the lights of facilities of the Idaho lab strung out across the desert like a sting of pearls, or, like cities on the earth as seen from the International Space Station.
Some workers have a shorter trip than bouncing over Highway 20 from Idaho Falls. Their “commute” is from the small town of Arco which has a fabled history in the development of atomic energy. Electricity was generated for the first time by a nuclear reactor on December 20, 1951, at the EBR-I experimental station near Arco, Idaho, which initially produced about 100 kW.
The Idaho National Laboratory is located about 45 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID 43.3N;112.1W more or less. Note to readers: I worked at the Idaho National Laboratory for 20 years on the Arco desert, aka “the site,” and in town. I developed this recipe there and am pleased to share it with readers.
Why is ‘2nd day’ in the Name?
This is “2nd day chili.” That means after you make it, put it in the unheated garage or a refrigerator to cool, and then reheat it on the stove top the next day. Do not microwave it. That action will turn the beans to mush.
By waiting a day the flavors will have had time to mix with the ingredients, and on a cold Idaho night what you need that warms the body and the soul is a bowl of this hot chili with fresh, hot from the oven cornbread on the side.
Dan’s 2nd day Idaho Nuclear Chili
If you make a double portion, you can serve it for dinner over a hot Idaho baked potato with salad. Add shredded sharp cheddar cheese over it, and have something cold and sweet for dessert. Enjoy.
Ingredients ( for spices kick it up a notch or tone it down to taste )
1 lb chopped or ground beef (15-20% fat)
1 large yellow onion
1 sweet red, orange or yellow pepper
1 sweet green pepper
10-12 medium size mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
1 can pinto beans (plain, no “chili sauce”), drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1 can small, white ‘shoepeg” corn, drained
1 12 oz can beer
1 cup hot beef broth, instant is ok
1 tablespoon cooking sherry, brandy; or, bourbon
2 tablespoons finely chopped medium heat jalapeno peppers
2-4 tablespoons red chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cilantro
1. Chop the vegetables into small pieces and brown them at medium heat in canola cooking oil. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking sherry, brandy, etc., to the vegetables near the end. Drain thoroughly. Sprinkle chili powder, salt, pepper, spices, etc., to taste on vegetables while they are cooking. The onions should be more or less translucent to be fully cooked. Don’t let them burn. Put the mushrooms in last as they cook fast. Drain the vegetables and put them into the pot with beer and beef broth.
2. Brown the meat separately and drain the fat. Also sprinkle chili power and the cumin on the meat while cooking.
3. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Reminder – be sure to drain the beans, and tomatoes before adding. Simmer slowly on low heat for at least one-to-two hours Stir occasionally.
4. Set aside and refrigerate when cool. If the pot doesn’t fit in the frig, and the garage is unheated in winter, put it out here to cool off.
5. Reheat the next day. Garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Serve with cornbread and beer.
6. Feeds 2-4 adults.
Idaho bus drivers say “eat more chili.” Enjoy.
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