meat if desired (ham hock, salt pork, ground beef, etc)
Soak dried beans overnight. Rinse, place in pot, cover with can of red chile sauce and equal amount of water, add chopped onion, 4-5 cloves chopped garlic, package of chili pepper. Add smoked ham hock or other meat if desired (if using ground beef, brown & crumble it first in a separate pan). Bring to low boil, reduce heat and let simmer, partially covered, for 2-3 hours.
Note: I chose to use both a smoked ham hock and a small amount of ground beef, but again, the meat is strictly optional.
At this point (the beans have been simmering for 2 hours), I’ve decided to skip the step where you add flour or polenta — the beans are thick enough already. The taste is quite peppery, and Ditalini thinks I should have used a smaller can (14 oz) of red chili sauce and a proportionally smaller amount of New Mexico chili pepper. Could be, but I like what I’m tasting so far.
Update (a few hours later): So how’d they turn out? Now that we’ve eaten the beans, I think I used the correct amount of red chili sauce and water after all. They tasted right, and they were good . . . really good. Spicy, yes, but they’re supposed to be. I might add a little kosher salt to the pot next time I cook them, but that’s all I’d change. And I will cook them again . . . they’re excellent.
But are they Uncle Art’s beans? I can’t tell! It’s been more than 40 years since Ditalini or I have tasted the real thing. I guess we’ll just have to make a pot of beans next time we’re in California, and let Ditalini’s family decide.