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Springtime in Texas

texas hill country mapWhat comes to mind when you think of Texas? Windy stretches of tumbleweed filled desert, the bustle of Houston or Dallas, maybe the beaches at Corpus Christi? How about rolling green hills, small lakes and winding rivers, wildflowers by the thousands, and some of the best food anywhere?  I just returned from a long weekend with a dear friend in the Texas Hill Country, and that is just what I experienced. 

This area, between Austin and San Antonio, was originally settled by Germans and Polish who came to run the lumber mills in the mid 19th century. Their culinary influence can still be seen, felt, and tasted today in little towns like Fredricksburg where restaurants still serve schnitzel and homemade sauerkraut.  These folks stayed on, owning many of the huge ranches that cover the area today, their culinary path twisting with the locals and the cowboys.  In the 1960s, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson encouraged the planting of millions of bluebonnets throughout the Hill Country which bloom for miles every spring, making a beautiful place even lovelier. 

Texas Hill Country Borracho Beans
 “Borracho” means drunken in Spanish. These beans will be fabulous with barbequed or smoked meats at your next cook out.
10-12 Servings
borracho-beans (1)

2 pounds dry pinto beans
10 slices thick cut bacon
2 small white onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. chile powder
2 t. paprika
1 t. ground cumin
4 roma tomatoes, diced
Big handful of chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 jalapenos, kept whole and pierced with a knife
12 oz. dark Mexican beer (such as Negro Modelo or XX)
1 ½ cups chicken broth

Place the pinto beans in a large bowl and cover with water by at least 2”.  Let soak overnight.  Drain the beans and set aside.

Cook half the bacon in a large stock pot.  Remove when crisp, reserve the drippings.  Add the onion to the drippings and sauté briefly.  Add the garlic and spices and cook 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes, cilantro, and pierced jalapenos and stir to coat.  Return the beans to the pot with the beer and the broth.  The beans should be covered by the liquid at least 3” (add water if needed.)  Chop the remaining bacon into ½” pieces and add it to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook over moderate heat until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with additional chopped fresh cilantro and the crumbled cooked bacon.

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