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COOKING ON DEADLINE: Recipe for sweet-and-tangy chili grinders

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With all due respect to vegetarians, Fourth of July grub at my house has to hit several key criteria.

It must be meaty. It must be bold. It must pair nicely with beer and wine and cocktails. It must easily feed a crowd. It must be easy to prepare. It must be easy to eat outside. And did I mention it has to be meaty?

Which is why my July 4 gatherings always involve an array of burgers and sausages and hot dogs, as well as some assortment of steak tips and pulled pork. All big and bold and meaty and do-ahead-easy.

But this year I wanted to throw something new into the mix, something that still hit all my must-haves, but that's a little outside the usual. And that's how I came up with this recipe for sweet-and-tangy chili grinders. It's a basic beef and bean chili with a rich-and-sweet sauce that's spooned onto slabs of baguette, then topped with cheese.

What I particularly like about this recipe is that the chili can be prepped the day before, then simply reheated just before serving. And since I already have the grill going for the rest of the meal, I like to assemble the grinders, then set them over the flames for a few minutes to toast the baguette and melt the cheese.

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SWEET-AND-TANGY CHILI GRINDERS

Can't fine Peppadew peppers? Substitute mild banana peppers, which are sold jarred near the pickles.

Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 8

14-ounce jar mild Peppadew peppers (drained)

12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained

6-ounce can tomato paste

2 medium yellow onions, quartered

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks

Two 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained

1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, diced (seeds removed, if desired)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt and ground black pepper

Four 18-inch baguettes

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a blender, combine the Peppadews, red peppers, tomato paste, onions, Worcestershire and sugar. Blend until smooth, then set aside.

In a large pot over high, heat the oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, add the beef and cook until browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a plate while browning the next batch. When all of the beef is browned, return it to the pot.

Pour in the blended sauce, kidney beans, jalapenos, cumin, cinnamon, garlic powder, chili powder and smoked paprika. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partly cover the pot and cook for 1 hour. Taste a piece of the beef; it should be fork tender. If not, continue cooking until the beef is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut each baguette in half crosswise, then split each half lengthwise. Spoon the chili into each baguette half, then top with cheese.

Nutrition information per serving: 740 calories; 200 calories from fat (27 per cent of total calories); 22 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 105 mg cholesterol; 74 g carbohydrate; 11 g fiber; 15 g sugar; 61 g protein; 1700 mg sodium.

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J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org

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