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Home plate: Inebriated edibles

 It’s the new year, time to try a bit of the unusual – inebriated chicken and intoxicated beans - with a pot of traditional bean soup thrown in for the teetotalers.

Drunken Chicken (Courtesy of Betty Norlin)  ½ cup golden raisins  ½ cup dry sherry, heated  ½ cup flour  ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste  ¼ teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground, or to taste  1 small chicken, about 3 ½ pounds, cut into 6 to 8 pieces  ½ cup corn oil or other vegetable oil  1 medium onion, thinly sliced  3 large garlic cloves, minced  ½ cup blanched almonds  ½ cup whole pimento-stuffed green olives  1 tablespoon cornstarch  1 ½ cups chicken broth  1 cup tequila  1/3 to 1 cup distilled white vinegar  1 tablespoon sugar  Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the hot sherry over them. Let sit at least 20 minutes to soften the raisins. Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt and pepper on a flat plate. Roll the chicken pieces in the flour to coat evenly. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until not quite smoking. Fry the chicken pieces until well browned on the outside, but not cooked within, about 10 minutes. Place browned chicken in a baking dish or Dutch oven with a tight- fitting lid. Set aside while you make the sauce.  Discard all but about two tablespoons of fat from the skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat, scraping the pan to dislodge any browned bits of chicken, until onion is golden and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 2 minutes. Add the olives and plumped raisins with any unabsorbed sherry; cook, stirring occasionally, another 2 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in about ¼ cup chicken stock. Add the rest of the stock to the skillet along with the tequila and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring and scraping. Add 1/3 cup of the vinegar to the mixture along with the sugar; stir to combine and taste to judge the effect. Continue to add vinegar (up to 1 cup) until the desired tartness is achieved.  Stir in the cornstarch mixture. Let it boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens and flavors meld, about 10 minutes.  Pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover the baking dish and bake until the chicken is tender, but not overcooked, about 20 minutes.

Drunken Beans  This smoky, salty, spicy interplay of beans, bacon, onions, chili and beer is an excellent side to any Mexican meal.  2 cups (1 pound) dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed  ½ pound bacon (8 slices), chopped  1 clove garlic, finely chopped  1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crumbled  6 cups chicken stock or water  ½ cup pickled jalepeños  1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer, such as Negra Modelo or Dos Equis  2 teaspoons salt, or to taste  Soak beans in cold water to cover by 2 inches, refrigerated for at least 8 hours. (Or put beans in a saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, then remove them from the heat and let the beans soak, covered, for an hour. Drain.)  Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.  Cook bacon, onion, garlic and oregano in a 6- to 7-quart ovenproof pot over moderately high heat, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, until onion is lightly browned. Add beans, chicken stock, jalapeños  and beer and bring to a boil.  Cover pot, transfer to oven and bake beans until soft, 1 ½ to 2 hours. (Add additional liquid if beans begin to dry out. Mixture should be soupy and beans very soft, but not falling apart.)  Stir in salt and bake beans, covered for 10 minutes more. Check seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Bean Soup 1 (16 ounce) package dried navy beans 7 cups water 1 ham bone 2 cups diced ham 1/4 cup minced onion   1/2 teaspoon salt     1 pinch ground black pepper          1 bay leaf 1/2 cup sliced carrots 1/2 cup sliced celery Place rinsed beans into a large stock pot. Add water and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 2 minutes; remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Add ham bone, cubed ham, onion, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beans are soft. Occasionally skim surface of soup while it is cooking. Add carrots and celery, cook until tender. Remove ham bone, scrape any meat from bone and place back into soup and serve.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew  2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes  1/4 cup all-purpose flour  1/2 teaspoon salt  1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper  1 clove garlic, minced  1 bay leaf  1 teaspoon paprika  1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce  1 onion, chopped  1 1/2 cups beef broth  3 potatoes, diced  4 carrots, sliced  1 stalk celery, chopped Place meat in slow cooker. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and pepper; pour over meat, and stir to coat meat with flour mixture. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on High setting for 4 to 6 hours.

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