Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cowboy Beans (frijoles charros)

IMG_7833 copy Too many people shy away from making beans from scratch. I learned how to make these beans at a Mexican cooking class and I could never open a can of refried beans again. Beans in the can taste like tin and are more expensive. You’ll know it too once you try this. These beans, especially, have so much amazing flavor for just a basic recipe. Feel free to experiment with adding squash, sweet potato, or other veggies once you’ve cooked this a couple of times and get the hang of it.

The best thing about beans is how well they keep. Beans and rice the first night, burritos or tacos the next, and I’ve got a couple of lunches covered for my daughter’s daily nacho cravings. She loves to eat beans with a sprinkling of cheese.

So here’s my bean tutorial to get you to change your life forever. It really is this easy. If you have a pressure cooker it’s even easier. I never know what I’m going to make the night before so I usually forget to soak beans overnight. But you can definitely do this without one. Still totally easy.

Soak 2-3 C of beans in water to cover by 2 inches. I do this right in the pot. (If you are using a pressure cooker, just 5-6 hours is fine). I also follow the Cook’s Illustrated method, which is to add salt to the soaking water. A couple of teaspoons. But you don’t have to.

Rinse and drain the beans and put them in a very large, heavy bottomed pot. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Pick out any beans that float and look shrivel-y.

beans 1) Put in a half an onion, chopped into big chunks, a few sprigs of cilantro, and some garlic halved. This is all optional but adds a little flavor to the beans as they cook. DO NOT SALT THE WATER. Unless you never want your beans to cook. Put the lid on the pot and simmer over medium low heat for about 2 hours, checking occasionally if you need to add more water. If you are using a pressure cooker, it will take a half an hour once the water reaches boiling.

2) While the beans cook, dice up a large onion, 2 tomatoes, and mince up a bunch of cloves of garlic (depending on how much you love garlic).

3) Put 6-8 strips of bacon in a heavy bottomed dutch oven skillet/fry pan. Cook on medium heat until….

4) CRISP! This is important. Don’t burn them. This is always the hardest part for me. TIP: Use chopsticks to flip the bacon. It works so well.

5) Remove the bacon to a plate and spoon off most of the grease (leave a couple of tablespoons)

6) Saute the onions in the bacon grease until brown (7-8 minutes)

7) Add the tomatoes. Keep stirring and saute for 5 minutes.

8) chop up the bacon into pieces and add them to the tomato/onion mix. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes longer.

9) When the beans are tender, put a couple of cups of the cooked beans into the pan and saute for a few minutes. Add chicken bouillon or salt to taste. Remove the onion/cilantro from the beans’ pot.

10) add the whole mix back into the cooking pot. Add more salt as necessary and cook for a bit longer until the liquid gets thick with the beans—maybe 20 minutes more over simmering heat.