Aug 25, 2009

My Dirty Little Bean Secret

There are food bloggers who manage to do this every day. But for me, it's sometimes hard to come up with something once a week. This was one of those weeks when I ask myself, "Self, why do you do this? Just take a week off. No one will care." But I would so I can't.

This time of year doesn't often inspire me to cook. It's hot and humid, so the slow-cookin' long-simmerin' stuff we love to eat isn't going to happen. Food festivals are pretty much over with until fall when it cools off. The only thing happening food-wise right now is stocking up on canned goods and other non-perishables since this is down and dirty hurricane time. (This weekend is the 4th anniversary of Katrina, by the way.) Cooking canned beenie weenies on a grill because the electricity's gone out doesn't seem like good food blog material.

But leave it to "The Boy." A couple of days ago, I asked The Boy what he had for lunch at school. He told me, "Sausage, rice, and beans...and it was goooood." Then I grinned, remembering that it was Monday, so of course that's what he had. Those old Cajun cafeteria cooks don't mess with tradition. Sausage, rice, and beans: his way of saying red beans and rice, only he lists the ingredients in order of what matters most to him.

I've already covered red beans and rice. But this conversation made me think that maybe I should share a dirty little secret of mine. If I were to make beans I confess that red beans and rice would not be my first choice. So...I said it and now it's out there for tens of people to read. I'll probably never be allowed back into New Orleans again. The ghost of Louis Armstrong will haunt me. (Armstrong, or Satchmo, loved red beans and rice so much that he signed his letters "red beans and ricely yours.") I may even be kicked out of Louisiana. Hope you're happy now.

While living in Texas for several years, I developed an obsession/passion for Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I found a great cookbook on the subject: The Border Cookbook by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. I haven't made every recipe in the book (it's huge), but I've made several. Not one has been a miss. One of our favorite recipes from The Border Cookbook is Frijoles de Olla, or Pot Beans.

Gaw! Don't get excited. The beans are in the pot, not the other way around.

These beans are actually better a day or two after making them. And they freeze well, so I make a big batch of them all at once. They can be eaten as is, with rice in burritos, or mashed and turned into refried beans. I've made this recipe for many years, so it's morphed over time as a result of experimentation, personal tastes, and ingredient availability. What I'm trying to say in all that official sounding language is: this ain't quite the book version.

Frijoles de Olla (Pot Beans)
adapted from The Border Cookbook by Jamison & Jamison

2 cups dried pinto beans
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
Hot water to cover the beans
1 whole head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
¼ tsp chili flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf (if you have it)
½ of an onion, coarsely chopped
1-2 jalapenos, minced
1 ½ tsp salt, or to taste

Pick through the beans and rinse them carefully, looking for any gravel or grit. Rinse a second time.

Place beans in a stock pot or Dutch oven. Add chicken stock and then enough water to cover the beans. Add the remaining ingredients except for the salt. Bring the beans just to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans, uncovered. Plan on a total cooking time of about 2 ½-3 hours.

After 1 hour, stir the beans and check the water level. If there is not at least 1 inch of water above the beans, add enough HOT water to bring it up to that level. Check the beans after another 30 minutes, repeating the process. Add the salt after the beans are well-softened and continue simmering. Check every 20-30 minutes, keeping the level of the water just above the beans. There should be extra liquid at the end of cooking, but the beans should not be watery.

If you wish, remove ½ to 1 cup of beans, mash them, and return to the pot for a thicker liquid. Serve warm. The beans keep for several days and are even better reheated. They also freeze well.

The mise en place. Looks like a lot going on, but this is one of those dump it all in type of things. I like to use homemade chicken stock (click link for how to make this), but canned can definitely be used. If you need these to be vegetarian, use vegetable broth or water.

Rinse beans and remove any foreign objects. There will most likely be foreign objects.

See? Throw everything in. Except the salt. Supposedly adding salt to uncooked beans makes the skins tough and takes them take longer to cook.

Bring everything just to a boil, then lower to a simmer. I like to skim all that foam off because it looks nasty.

Simmer for 1 hour then check water level. You'll want there to be 1" of water over the beans. Add hot water to get that level. Adding cold water slows the cooking process. Continue cooking and check the water level every half hour. When the beans are softened, season with salt. Total cooking time should be 2 1/2-3 hours. Rainy day project.

Here they are, nice and tender and tasty. If you want them creamy, mash some against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon or remove to a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Serve as is with your favorite Mexican or Tex Mex dish (like my favorite, Chiles Rellenos), or add to burritos, or make refried beans. I'll save that for another day.

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1 comment:

  1. I love your blog! You always have a cute post with a great recipe. Love the beans and such a cute story about your school cafe always serving red beans and rice on Mondays. Our schools here do the same thing, certain things on certain days.


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