James Beard Award–winning cookbook author and Native foods historian and educator Lois Ellen Frank shares one of her favorite recipes for using dried foods from the previous growing season. She cooks the stew in a large cast-iron pot that was passed down to her by her mother. “The taste from the cast iron makes this chile bean stew even more delicious,” she says. “It can be made with meat or just with beans and vegetables and tastes great either way. It makes a hearty meal by itself or a side to any feast. It is a favorite at all family and ceremonial gatherings.”

4 to 6 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons sunflower oil

1 pound ground bison

1 large yellow onion, chopped (approximately 2 cups)

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with basil

2½ cups cooked dark red kidney beans

2½ cups cooked pinto beans

2 cups cooked corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned)

3 tablespoons dried mild New Mexico red chile powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

¼ teaspoon dried thyme (or to taste)

½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (or to taste)

4 cups water or bean juice

Serves 8 to 12

  1. Heat a small dry, seasoned sauté pan until it is hot. Place the raw peeled garlic in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until the garlic begins to brown on all sides. Cook for approximately 6 minutes, depending on your flame. Stir to make sure that it evenly browns on all sides, but it should not be completely brown. You should still have some parts that retain their original color. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and then finely chop it.
  2. Heat the oil in a cast-iron pot or soup pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the meat and brown for several minutes. Add the onions and sauté for 4 minutes, until translucent, stirring to prevent burning. Add bell peppers and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Cut each of the whole tomatoes from the can into 8 pieces (a large dice) and add them to the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the kidney beans and pinto beans and stir well. Stir in the corn kernels and cook for an additional 2 minutes to blend all the ingredients. Stir in the red chile powder, salt, thyme, and oregano. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Serve hot with warm bread or homemade corn or flour tortillas.

Note: Frank recommends cooking the beans in a slow cooker overnight, adding additional water so that you can use the liquid (bean juice) in soups and stews.

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