Cake for Breakfast and More at Southern Foodways Alliance Winter Symposium

I spent the past weekend at the Southern Foodways Alliance 2018 Winter Symposium here in Birmingham. I joined more than 150 people from all over the country to talk about what it means to produce, grow, cook, eat and love food in the South.

Attendees included James Beard Foundation Award-winning restaurateurs and chefs as well as some of the latest crop of nominees. There were coffee growers, food writers, oral historians, a mariachi band, educators, activists, photographers, farmers and filmmakers. Some people were there simply because they love Southern food.

And that’s good enough.

From a drink made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, Good People‘s Snake Handler reduction AND Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale to breakfast cake made by Dolester Miles, the pastry chef at Highlands Bar & Grill, to Chef Duane Nutter‘s lunch of Sea Island Red Peas and Shrimp (and much more!) to Becky Satterfield’s amazing gumbo full of Conecuh Sausage, it was a delicious time worth savoring.

See my story on Alabama NewsCenter for all the details.

In this early 1900s picture, Jack Daniel (seen in the white hat) with Nearest Green’s son, George Green, to his immediate right. Photo credit: Jack Daniel Distillery.

You’ll find that we heard CNN’s Moni Basu talk about growing up in an Indian household in the American South and how food narratives can effect change. Fawn Weaver and Clay Risen talked about Nathan “Nearest” Green, the former slave whom many believe taught Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey. Writer Julia Turshen spoke about her book Feed the Resistance: Recipes and Ideas for Getting Involved, which benefits the ACLU. Food writer and dining critic David Hagedorn explored the various meanings of Southern hospitality, and Atlanta-Journal Constitution reporter Rosalind Bentley talked about the women who fed the Civil Rights Movement and sustained protestors with home-cooked meals respectfully served on their good china.

You’ll want to put next year’s Winter Symposium on your calendar. I’ll see you there.

 

 

Everyday Cheese Straws (that are not straws)

My neighbor makes cheese straws for Christmas each year, and they always take me right back to my childhood. Cameron’s classic Southern recipe–crisp-crunchy, mouthwateringly savory and just spicy enough–calls for a cookie press and a star tip and some real skill. The result is perfect, wavy strips pretty enough for gift-giving and so good I am tempted to hide them from my family.

The recipe I follow–from the Internet and there are lots of versions– calls for some Rice Krispies and a fork. The result is a wafer instead of a traditional straw, but they are light and crunchy and perfect for everyday.

At the Southern Foodways Alliance Winter Symposium, held in Birmingham over the weekend, I heard David Hagedorn mention “cheese straws made with cayenne and Rice Krispies,” and, with an immediate Pavlovian kind of yearning, I knew I’d make a batch the very next day.

I follow a recipe called Chica’s Cheese Crisps. It’s incredibly easy, takes no time at all and uses ingredients I usually already have on hand. I like to double it and freeze the leftovers so I’ll have some ready for company. Here’s how to do it:

Chica’s Cheese Crisps

INGREDIENTS

1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded and room temperature

1 stick butter softened

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup Rice Krispies cereal

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending upon how hot you want them)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

pinch of garlic powder (if you want it)

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large bowl, combine the butter and cheese and flour. Mix in the cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder (if you’re using it) until the dough forms a small ball. You can use your hands or a wooden spoon. I like to use a pastry cutter to do this until it begins to stick together. Just mix until there are no ingredients left in the bottom of the bowl.

Using your hands, gently fold in the Rice Krispies cereal.

Pinch off a nickel-size amount and roll into tight balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about one inch apart, and flatten each with a fork.

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until slightly golden on the edges.

Cool on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes.

Makes about two dozen.

 

Dinner at My House: Medicine Soup

So far this flu season I’ve braved three buffet dinners, two track meets and one gala, armed with I don’t know how many little bottles of hand sanitizer and the new habit of eating finger foods with my left hand. I also happen to have a not-so-secret weapon:  Medicine Soup.

Think chicken soup … and then think some more.

Actually, Medicine Soup is a Pho-like, slightly spicy, incredibly aromatic broth scented with star anise, green cardamon, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, dried chiles, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. You add shrimp at the last minute and serve it over Asian noodles with fresh, bright garnishes like Thai basil, cilantro, mint, mung bean sprouts and lime wedges.

It’s absolutely perfect if you’re feeling under the weather or even if you’re feeling perfectly fine.

This recipe for Aromatic Shrimp and Noodle Medicine Soup, by Lily Freedman, originally appeared in bon appetite, but I found it on epicurious.com.

It takes me more than a little while to make this soup partly because when I go to Hometown Supermarket on Greensprings in Homewood to shop for it, I get so easily distracted by all the awesome things there. Like shelves and shelves of sauces and more savory, sweet, spicy gochujang (Korean red chili paste) than I’ve ever seen in one place. (This is one of my very favorite condiments. Get a small tub of this stuff, and just google all the wonderful ways you can use it.) I found some of those fancy little knotted bamboo hors d’oeuvres picks in the back of the store along with lots of the colorful ceramic spoons you find in Asian restaurants. I usually pick up some Japanese crackers or Chinese candy or some exotic fruit to surprise my family. (Produce here is fresh and fun and nicely affordable). And if I’m hungry right at that moment (I would not recommend shopping while hungry at Hometown Supermarket), I just duck into Mr. Chen’s in-store restaurant. The Pork in Black Bean Sauce is a winner.

Truly, gathering the ingredients for this recipe is a huge reason why I love this dish so much.

The soup is a two-step process. You make the amazing broth, and then you make a paste of cashews, shallots,  chiles, more lemongrass and more ginger, which adds some lovely depth to this soup. But I promise, it’s totally worth the effort.

It might also be worth doubling the recipe and freezing half of the broth and paste (you can add fresh shrimp when you reheat it).

That way, if you’re not feeling well, your medicine soup will be ready when you need it.

Aromatic Shrimp and Noodle Medicine Soup

INGREDIENTS

For the broth:

6 whole cloves

6 green cardamom pods

4 star anise pods

3 dried chiles de árbol

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 bunch cilantro

3 medium shallots, halved through root ends

5 garlic cloves, smashed

2 (6-inch) pieces lemongrass, tough outer layer removed, lightly smashed

1 (4-inch) piece ginger, peeled, sliced ½-inch thick

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

 

For the paste:

1/2 cup unsalted cashews

1 medium shallot, chopped

1 Fresno (or jalapeño) chile, chopped

1 (3-inch) piece lemongrass, tough outer layer removed, finely chopped

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon shrimp paste with bean oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

For assembly:

4 (12-ounce) packages ramen noodles (or equivalent of your favorite noodles)

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 ounces mung bean sprouts

4 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal

Fresh tender herbs (such as Thai basil, cilantro, and/or mint)

Freshly ground black pepper

Chili oil and lime wedges (for serving)

 

PREPARATION

Make the broth: Toast cloves, cardamom, star anise, chiles, cinnamon, and peppercorns in a large pot over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add cilantro, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, broth and fish sauce, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until flavors meld, about 1–1 1/2 hours. Strain into a large bowl, pressing on solids. Return broth to pot; season with salt and pepper.

Make the paste: Pulse cashews in a food processor until very finely ground. Add shallot, chile, lemongrass, ginger, brown sugar, and shrimp paste; process until smooth. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat, and cook paste, stirring, until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Assemble: Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain; rinse immediately under cold water and drain well. Bring broth to a simmer, add shrimp, and cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Divide noodles amongst four bowls. Add 2 Tbsp. cashew paste to each bowl and ladle broth over; stir to incorporate paste. Top with shrimp, sprouts, scallions and herbs; season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with chili oil and lime wedges.

Serves 4 generously.

A Good Race

I ran the recent 2018 Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham. This was not my first time to do this, but I was extremely nervous about it. I knew this would not be a PR day. I had some perfectly good excuses:  It was rainy. It was hot. I had some on-and-off pain in my hip. But the fact was:  I had not prepared as much as I should have done. I simply had not put my feet on the ground enough in the weeks leading up to this race.

But I did it anyway.

And I ended up running a joyful race. There’s really no other way to describe it.

I decided early on–at about mile 3–to just run. To simply be in every moment. I’m pretty competitive, and I have a bad habit of sizing up the women running near me to try to see if they are in my age group (and therefore someone I need to pass). I’m not proud of this. But at this race, I didn’t do it.

“You do you,” I actually said out loud.

Once I let go of my expectations (and tamped down my competitive nature), I started noticing things that made me happy and grateful to just be there–moving forward at my own pace.

We passed by Kelly Ingram Park and I looked at the beautiful Four Spirits sculpture, and I acknowledged the precious souls of those four little girls. I ran by Glen Iris Elementary School, and I thought of the awesome young girls on the Girls on the Run team I coach twice a week. I had met them only the week before, but they already are “my girls.”

I was listening to a playlist made by two of my children, and the songs they picked out for me made me happy. From Kygo to Beyoncé to Fleetwood Mac. It was all good. My older daughter had given me two charms for my shoes–an Eiffel Tower and a Girls on the Run button–and I smiled as I put one fancy foot in front of the other.

Members of the Mountain Brook High School Track & Field team were staffing one of the water stops in Southside around mile 6, which is always more hilly than I remember. A few of the girls I know hugged me and shouted:  “You’ve got this, Mrs. Swagler.” And I knew I did.

I thanked each Birmingham Police officer at every intersection. A special thank you to the officer who gave me a high five at the top of that small hill on Highland Avenue.

At mile 9, my friends Janice Rogers and Jeh Jeh Pruitt from WBRC Fox 6 cheered me on, and I picked up the pace.

A spectator in Avondale gave me a string of green Mardi Gras beads, and I ran on happy to know enough to be dressed appropriately in a thin tank top in winter (and now with a fun accessory!). I took a moment to appreciate having some great shoes and even greater socks. (My   Thorlos Experia socks were everything the salesperson said they would be. Funny how something so small and simple can make a really big difference.)

At mile 10 when Tiidrek Nurme, the winner of the full Marathon (and an Olympian!), passed me, I did not think about how quickly he had lapped me. Instead, I thrilled to see him so closely, moving so effortlessly and so fast.

At mile 11, the pickles and pickle juice were just what I wanted. At mile 12, that cold sip of beer was good, too.

Just before mile 13, my phone died and so did my music. But then I noticed a man running with a small (but really loud), portable speaker, and I ran alongside him for a block or so. He was pacing his wife who was running her first half marathon. He told me he and their kids already had gotten her a fancy display board for the really cool finisher’s medal she was about to earn.

When I finished, Rick Journey gave me a special shout-out, which I appreciated very much. I got my medal (it really is one of my favorites) and a finisher’s gift that remains a mystery to me. It looks like a towel, but it has a strange little zipper and some webbing and a clasp (see the gallery below). I have no idea what this thing is; if anyone else knows, please tell me.

As I walked toward the party (with barbecue and massages) in Boutwell Auditorium, I realized I had not looked at the clock as I crossed the finish line. My time didn’t matter. But the moments I spent running that race did matter very much. They added up to a truly joyful whole.

I had savored that race in a way I had never done before. In a way I didn’t even know was possible. I was tired, sure, but I also was immensely satisfied. It was similar to how I feel when I enjoy a perfectly delicious meal or when I read the last page of a wonderfully memorable book. It felt good and right. And it made me happy.

Southern National in Mobile is Destination Dining

Restaurateurs and friends Reginald “Reggie” Washington and Duane Nutter serve “globally inspired Southern food” at their highly anticipated new restaurant, Southern National, in Mobile. Go ahead and plan your visit now.

That city has embraced them, and, with a James Beard Foundation 2018 nomination for Best New Restaurant (Southern National is a semifinalist, and it was announced just today), I’m guessing they’ll soon have many more fans from all over our state and well beyond.

I traveled there last week to talk to Reggie and Chef Nutter for an Alabama NewsCenter story.

You can read it here:

This is not the first time the two have done destination dining.

They collaborated at One Flew South, an upscale restaurant in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where they made Concourse E its own destination. Fans of One Flew South scheduled layovers at the airport in order to eat there.

Open only since mid-October, Southern National is fine dining in Mobile’s lively arts district. The creative dishes here feature locally sourced ingredients like Gulf-fresh seafood, regional delicacies from around the Southeast and inspiration from myriad cultures. (Consider Kentuckyaki Braised Short Ribs with Brussels sprout kimchi and miso butternut squash puree.) They pour inventive craft cocktails and wines from around the world. And it’s worth a trip. No matter where you are right now.

If you go, I’d recommend the BBQ Shrimp Jalapeno Johnny Cakes with delicious red-eye gravy, crunchy dehydrated corn and shaved country ham from Benton’s in Tennessee. The Grilled Okra + Shishito Peppers featured cilantro-whipped goat cheese and a tangy teriyaki vinaigrette. Chef Nutter’s version of the Mobile delicacy chicken-on-a-stick is quite tasty, too. We also enjoyed crispy fried lobster tail (Chef Nutter’s answer to everyone else’s fried shrimp). It’s served with crab meat, Sea Island Red Peas, bok choy and a cilantro cream sauce. And I loved the Thyme-Smoked Pork Belly with a salad of black-eyed peas and arugula. It sat upon a pool of parsnip puree and was topped with blackberry-onion marmalade. Mussels and Collard Greens is an amazing combination. Those two potlikkers together are heaven in a bowl. We did not leave room for dessert (imagine!), but options included the cleverly named Nutter Butter Chai Panna Cotta (with crushed Nutter Butters and crystalized ginger) and Red Wine-Poached Pears with lemon-honey Greek yogurt and toasted pecans.

After learning about the James Beard nomination, Reggie told me:  “We worked really hard to get this thing going. I’m just super excited for Duane and Chef Tammy (Dawson) and Will Jones, our beverage manager. You have to work hard to be the best—that’s just what you do—and that’s the only way to excel at something.”

Southern National joins an impressive number of other Beard Award semifinalists from all over Alabama. The Atomic Lounge was nominated for Best Bar Program. For the 10th year in a row, Highlands Bar & Grill was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. Highland’s Dolester Miles was nominated, for the fifth straight year, for Outstanding Pastry Chef. David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn (read my story about him and his awesome restaurant here), Bill Briand of Fisher’s Upstairs in Orange Beach and Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood are repeat semifinalists this year for Best Chef: South.

You can read the entire story about all these talented chefs here at Alabama NewsCenter.

Washington said, “Our state is getting the recognition it deserves. There’s a lot of great talent in Alabama. And I think it says a lot about the state, economically, and as far as the diversity of the dining scene—from Huntsville to Mobile.

“We’ll see what happens now,” he added. “We’ll get more business. People will read about this and hear about it and want to see what we’re all about. We’re going to stay humble and just keep on cooking. Salt and pepper.”

 

 

Crestline Bagel in Cahaba Heights

Lucky you, Cahaba Heights! You have your own Crestline Bagel Co. now.

The beloved breakfast and lunch spot in Mountain Brook’s Crestline Village specializes in New York-style bagels and sees lines out the door every weekend (and some weekdays, too). Delayed school start? Crestline Bagel stop.

This second location is in a new development on Crosshaven Drive in Vestavia Hills that also will house a Leaf & Petal plant (and home decor and more) shop and Becky Satterfield‘s highly anticipated El Zunzún, a gourmet Latin American restaurant named after the hummingbirds that migrate to Central and South America every winter.

Crestline Bagel Co. has been in the heart of Crestline Village for more than 20 years, where it has become a part of the community. I expect the same thing will happen in Cahaba Heights. They’ve already put in a bicycle rack to accommodate the neighbors nearby. There’s nice patio seating outside, and when Leaf & Petal is in, with its fresh, green environment, that space will be amazing.

And, yes, they have a big gum ball machine here, too.

Jennifer Yarbrough bought Crestline Bagel Co. in 2007 and she and her husband, Ralph, immediately committed to making not only authentic bagels but also other artisanal bakery items like organic, seeded breads; focaccia and challah; wheat and flour wraps; cupcakes and cookies and scones; and even dog cupcakes that look so delicious I once–almost–ordered one by mistake.

Each item is crafted by hand with age-old methods using fresh, whole ingredients. The way it should be.

The menu features bagels of all kinds with nearly a dozen cream cheeses (some seasonal). My go-to is a whole wheat everything toasted and spread with honey-walnut cream cheese. There are egg sandwiches and biscuits with jam available, too. They make a lot of paninis and wraps at lunch as well as pizza bagels and fresh salads. You can build your own sandwich with ingredients like Boar’s Head turkey and creamy goat cheese. The three-cheese and tomato panini on the homemade focaccia is delicious. And Crestline Bagel Co. caters, too.

The new store is light and bright and open with plenty of room to sit and enjoy your meal or your gourmet coffee or your friends or all of that. Once Leaf & Petal and El Zunzún are open, too, I believe I could just stay in this one area all day long.

Crestline Bagel Co.

66-B Church Street, Mountain Brook

4117 Crosshaven Drive, Vestavia Hills

Hours: Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fox 6 Books: February

Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on February 6. Memoir and mystery and lots of entertainment!

Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White (University of Alabama Press) There’s so much to love about this young adult book by Alabama writer Lila Quintero Weaver! First of all, it’s a beautifully drawn, visually powerful graphic novel. Also, it’s set in our state’s historic Black Belt region—Marion, to be exact. And it’s a thoughtful, touching story of race and family and immigration and Alabama’s past, present, and future. The story is told by a young woman who came from Argentina to Marion. Her Latino family will witness the intense and dangerous struggles for civil rights in our state, even as they are trying to make their own home here. And Lila, as a Latina, will struggle with her own place in a town that draws strict lines between black and white.

The Queen of Hearts (Berkley) This book by Kimmery Martin will go on sale February 13, and it’s worth reserving now. This debut novel about friendship and secrets is set against an exciting and chaotic backdrop of hospitals and trauma rooms and life-or-death decisions. Zadie Anson is a pediatric cardiologist. Emma Colley is a trauma surgeon. The two have been friends since medical school. They both lead hectic, yet successful and fulfilling, personal and professional lives in Charlotte, NC—until a colleague returns and exposes a secret one of the women has been hiding for years.


The Perfect Scout:  A Soldier’s Memoir of the Great March to the Sea and the Campaign of the Carolinas
 (University of Alabama Press) This book, by George W. Quimby with editing assistance by Anne Sarah Rubin and Stephen Murphy, grew from a large collection of personal papers written by a Union soldier who was a scout for General William Tecumseh Sherman. After his father-in-law, George Quimby, died, Stephen Murphy found his written recollections of his time in the war, and he shares them in this book. Before he joined Sherman’s army in Vicksburg, Quimby was held captive by Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops in Western Tennessee. Once in Sherman’s army, Quimby became a scout, moving ahead of the troops to anticipate opportunities and danger, venturing into Confederate territory, and sending intelligence back to Sherman. The memoir, written in 1901, is an engaging story of narrow escapes, the suffering of civilians caught in between armies, historic events, drunken frolics, and acts of kindness from many Southerners. It reads like an adventure novel.

Shadow of the Lions (Algonquin BooksChristopher Swann‘s debut novel, a literary mystery, will remind readers of A Separate Peace, Dead Poets Society, and The Secret History. During his senior year at the Blackburne School, a prestigious boys’ boarding school in Virginia, Matthias Glass’s roommate and best friend, Fritz Davenport, disappeared without a trace after the two boys argued. Years later—struggling with writing and with life—Matthias is offered a job at Blackburne as an English teacher. He returns to the school and, once again on campus, is draw quickly into the past as he tries to find out exactly what happened to Fritz all those years ago.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.

Dinner at My House: Chili Your Way

Few foods draw as many different opinions as chili. Maybe pizza might with its toppings and crust and sauce back and forth.

But maybe not.

With chili, you can do chicken, turkey, pork, beef or a combination of those.  You can go with ground meats or nice, bite-size, browned morsels. You can skip the meat altogether and just make a chili with various vegetables. Then there’s the question of tomatoes or not? It’s up to you and what you like. Same with beans, as far as I’m concerned.

Really, it all depends upon what you want. Chili, I think, is everything you want it to be.

What I want is a deep, rich, not-too-thick soup, colored and flavored with various chiles, and filled with bite-size chunks of beef. I want some tomatoes in there, too, but I don’t always add beans. Sometimes I use red wine; other times I add beer. I’m a huge fan of cumin and coriander, and I toast and then grind my own.

Lately, I’ve alternated between two favorite recipes:  Julia Moskin‘s Texas-Style Chili from the New York Times Cooking website and Rhoda Boone‘s Our Favorite Texas Beef Chili from epicurious.

Today, I looked into my pantry, took stock of my stash of dried peppers and decided to combine what I love most about these two recipes into one–the beer and spices and tomatoes from the NYT recipe and the chile puree from the epicurious recipe. Here’s how that went:

Ingredients

3 dried pasilla chiles

3 dried guajillo chiles

8 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon honey

4 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large white onion, chopped

4 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeds and membranes removed, chopped

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds

1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds

2 tablespoons ground chile powder (I used a combination of ancho and Chili 3000 from Penzeys Spices)

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

3 tablespoons masa harina

3 10-ounce cans Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with green chiles

1 12-ounce can of beer

4 cups water, divided

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream

Fresh, chopped cilantro

Fresh, sliced jalapeño peppers

Preparation

Heat a large, dry skillet over high heat and toast the dried chiles until fragrant but not scorched, about 30 to 45 seconds each side. Remove and set aside. In the same dry skillet, toast garlic cloves in their skins, tossing, until browned in spots. Remove and set aside to cool.

In the same dry skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant, about 45 seconds, shaking constantly to keep them from burning. Remove and grind to powder in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder. Set aside.

Cut the chiles in half and remove the stems and seeds. Place them in a large, heat-proof bowl and cover with very hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Peel garlic and place in a food processor or blender. Add the soaked chiles, two teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon honey and enough of the soaking liquid to form a paste. Puree until smooth, and set aside.

Cut the beef into 1/2-inch cubes and season with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large, heavy pot over high heat until shimmering and brown the beef (in batches) about 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a bowl.

Turn the heat to medium and in the same now-crusty pot, cook the onion and jalapeño peppers, stirring with a little salt and pepper, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin-coriander powder, chile powder, oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Add the chile puree, and stir well for one minute. Dissolve the masa harina in two cups of water and add, stirring. Add meat, tomatoes in their juices, beer, remaining 2 cups water, chocolate and brown sugar, and stir until combined.

Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, still simmering, for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender. Taste and add salt if necessary.

 

This makes about 8-10 servings. It tastes even better a day or two after it is made. We enjoyed it with the amazing cornbread from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, and we served it with some sour cream and fresh cilantro and jalapeño slices.

Tip:  Use kitchen shears to deal with your dried peppers. Use a small spoon to scrape out the seeds and membrane in your fresh peppers.