Every New Year’s Day I like to make a big pot of beans. In years gone by, it was a big pot of Pink Beans with hunks of left-over Christmas Ham. While a lot of people were dining on honey ham or glazed spiral ham for their Christmas Supper, back in the day I had to have a good smoked ham because I knew the bone and scraps of meat would end up in a pot of beans come New Year’s Day. We had a family tradition back then – a day at Mount Charleston building our New Year’s Snowman and sipping hot chocolate, then home again to snuggle up to a big pot of beans with warm cornbread that evening.
Since returning to the Golden State of my birth, we haven’t been the ones to cook up the ham for Christmas. Most years, Dad did the honors. Now my youngest sister and her beautiful family host the Christmas Day gathering. The rule is those that host make the ham. And those that make the ham lay claim to the bone. That was fine. I simply switched my traditional ham and beans to a big pot of rockin’ chili (made with a blend of spices, pinto beans, pink beans, lean ground beef and spicy pork chorizo). It really didn’t matter to me what kind of beans were consumed on New Year’s Day. The point was to have the beans and my guys enjoyed the chili beans as much if not more than the pot of ham and beans. I know, traditionally people of the south eat black-eyed peas on New Years. The Southerners belief in the luck of the black-eyed pea can be traced back to the civil war. As legend has it, a town along the Mississippi ran out of food while under attack from the Yankees. They were cut off from the rest of the world. If not for a starch of black-eyed peas, these Southerners would have surly starved. From that day forward, it was common knowledge throughout the south that black-eyed peas brought “luck”. Dad made a pot of black-eyed peas every year, yet that’s a type of legume I’ve never been fond of eating. The way I see it, it’s the spirit of the bean that counts and not necessarily the type of bean itself. After all, most beans and peas are said to bring prosperity because their seed-like appearance represent coins that swell when cooked. They are to be consumed on New Year’s Day with the promise of financial rewards in mind. The way in which the legumes are prepared and eaten varies from country to country and region to region, depending upon local ingredients and cooking styles. While I don’t put stock in these beliefs, I like the idea of customs and traditions.
Making good chili from scratch is time-consuming. There is a faster way to enjoy your chili with a simple cheat – start with canned chili and built from there.With a few added ingredients, you can serve up a rockin’ hot batch of almost homemade chili that the family will gobble up.
We have a new tradition in our house. I whip up a big pot of Cheater’s Chili and Kiddo makes a pan of yummy Northern-Style Sweet Corn Bread. For us, a big bowl of Cheater’s Chili is an awesome way to embrace the beautiful new year.
Cheater’s Chili with Chorizo
1 Large Can Dennison’s Hot Chili (no other brand will do!)
1 lb Chorizo
1/4 White Onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, chopped (optional)
1/4 Cup Beef Stock
Grated Mild Cheddar Cheese for garnish
Additional Chopped onion, if desired, for garnish
Place Chili in a large pot over low heat.
Cook Chorizo meat, breaking into small pieces as it brown. Drain well and place in the pot with chili. Mix well. Remember, your chorizo must be of good quality. Make your own Home-Made Chorizo or shop at a good Latino Market with a well-stocked meat counter.
Fry onions and Jalapeno pepper briefly in chorizo meat drippings (about 1 tablespoon of drippings is all that is needed) until tender-crisp.
Add onions and Jalapeno to Chili, mix again. Add beef stock, just enough to create a gravy-like consistency to the canned chili.
Cover and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring pot as needed to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom and burning.
Note: This can be made in a crock pot. Cover and cook on HIGH 1 hour or LOW for 2 hours. The longer the chili simmers, the more the flavors marry and become one. When using a crock pot, there is no need to tend the beans, simply let them cook until ready to serve. Serve straight from crock pot with cheese and chopped onions on the side for garnish.