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Southern Recipe: Homemade Chili and Beans
by Kent Fletcher

While I was stationed at NAS Dallas in the early 1990s I made frequent trips to my home in Mississippi. I'll have to admit that often I launched these pilgrimages for culinary reasons. There's mighty good eating back in the Deep South; and, too, I'm forever in search of new, tantalizing, mouth-watering recipes. Certainly no better place to find them.

On one of my trips I was fortunate to come into possession of a terrific recipe for homemade Chili and Beans. I've cooked this dish for years now, eventually adding savory other items to the original to make it more to my taste. I share the recipe now with you. Enjoy!

Ingredients: (Original recipe)
*3 quarts water
*4 strips bacon (or salt pork) (a half-pound of cheap bacon will work)
*2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
*1 pound bag of pinto or red beans (or more, I usually go for about 2 pounds)
*3 teaspoons salt (strictly optional, there's enough other stuff in the stew to compensate, but if you gotta, you gotta. I don't use salt.)
*1 teaspoon pepper (black)
*1 teaspoon vegetable oil (or olive oil)
*3 pounds ground chuck (I've found venison or elk is much, much better, but if you can't get what you want, you get what you need ...)
*4 Tablespoons chili powder or chili mix
*2 onions, chopped (actually, 2 is a little shy, 3 is mo'betta, yellow or white or even sweet will work)
*2 bell peppers, chopped (same as the onions)
*Worcestershire (Wooster) sauce (amount to your taste)
*1 6-ounce can tomato sauce (Can someone please tell me where I can find a 6-ounce can? An 8-ounce is the norm.)
*1 6-ounce can tomato paste
*1 teaspoon mustard (any flavor--plain, dijon, hot, mild)
*1 cup barbecue sauce (any flavor--mesquite, honey-mustard, plain, garlic, whatever tempts you!)

My added ingredients:
*3 to 4 bay leaves
*1 or 2 187ml bottles, or a healthy portion of Cabernet Sauvignon wine (Sutter Home is great, but the cheap stuff, you know, $3/bottle will also work--besides it's the flavor you're in search of not the spirits!)
*2 to 3 cloves garlic (I use the store-bought-already-crushed-stuff, but your choice)

In a boiler (preferably a cast-iron Dutch oven, say 10 quart size), add bacon and water, cooking for 30 minutes or so at a rolling boil. Soak beans in warm water in the meantime. (I've found that nuking a pound to a pound-and-a-half of beans in the microwave for about 10 minutes while the bacon is cooking works very well.)

At 30 minutes, add the beans, shortening, 1 teaspoon salt (strictly optional), and pepper.

Cook at a rolling boil for two (2) hours, stirring frequently to keep from burning.

In the meantime, in a cast-iron skillet (a big'un, by the way), stir-fry with the vegetable oil the ground chuck, chili powder or mix, onions, and bell pepper. Add "Wooster" sauce, two (2) teaspoons salt (strictly optional), tomato sauce, tomato paste, mustard, and barbecue sauce.

About an hour into the cooking of the meat, add the bay leaves, wine, and garlic. Let this simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

At 2 hours, pour the ground beef mixture into the beans and simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes, to an hour.

Serves 10 to 15, maybe more, maybe less, depending on how "hongry" you are, and how many folks you've invited. Goes well with a green salad and cornbread.

Stores very well frozen, or keep in the fridge for a couple of days--if it lasts that long.


Contact Kent Fletcher, Mississippi native and now a proud Texan, at: hots64

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