Over the holidays we went to Baltimore to stay a few days with our son and his girlfriend. They have a townhouse in an area of Baltimore that is being “gentrified.” As this area is still in progress, there are still a lot of ethnic grocery stores and restaurants catering to mostly new immigrants, which means authentic! I grew up in California and can honestly say, not counting Tex-Mex, that I haven’t had Mexican food since I left. The Taqueria El Sabor del Parque is located about 3 blocks from our son’s house and in the 3 days we stayed, we ate there twice and took some pozole and burritos back to Pennsylvania with us. Before the last bite was finished, I was dreaming of more. Their thinly rolled corn and flour tortillas are made on the premises and I’d like to believe patted out by hand but that could be my imagination. We’re going to have to visit our son more often, because we love him and must eat in that restaurant several more times 😀
Craving more of that “Old Mexico” flavor and remembering that my Mom would make chili beans with ham hocks, I removed some smoked neck bones from the freezer and put some pinto beans in water to soak overnight. Pinto beans have always been one of my favorites, starting out speckled beige and then turning to pink after cooking. Magic!
As I gathered all the necessary ingredients for a good chili, I was reminded that next time, besides eating at the same place, I absolutely have to go shopping in one of the many neighborhood bodegas to get authentic Mexican spices from Baltimore. I’ve gotten so used to substituting and sacrificing quality for availability. No more 🙂
My IT Jessie once again knocked over the camera tripod and felt guilty for about 10 seconds, running around and around the island, knowing that she wouldn’t be put outside on her run because it’s way too cold for man or beast. A failed sous-chef, she took full advantage.
When I was overseas, it always amused me that most of my house help didn’t know how to use a can opener. Surprising it wasn’t an easy thing to teach, more than one session was needed. I assumed that it was because 1) canned items are more expensive than fresh, home grown fruits, vegetables and legumes and 2) many were suspicious that food came in a can, especially fish. Can openers were unknown and meaningless in their culture.
At home, in the U.S., I find myself amazed and amused by the younger generation of Americans who also do not know how to use can openers! I imagine if a can doesn’t have a tab opener on it, then only really old people buy it 😀 Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Thank God I have lots, they’re probably antiques!
Smoked Pork Neck Bone and Pinto Bean Chili
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp piment d’espelette
1 lb pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 lb smoke neck bones
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Saute the onion, garlic and bell peppers in the oil until soft. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and piment d’espelette and cook with the vegetables for about 2 minutes. Add the beans, neck bones, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 1/2 -2 hours until the beans have a creamy texture but still maintain their shapes.
Serve with heated corn tortillas, grated cheese, chopped scallions, chopped tomatoes and hot salsa.