27 May, 2012

Magic Beans with Sunday Cookbook

As embarrassing as it is to admit I (Jessi) used to never be able to make a pot of beans on the first try.  Yes, it would take two attempts because inevitably I would burn the first pot.  This was devastating to me because I really  love beans.  I was so happy to marry a Mexican, who is also a Chef, so HE could make the beans!  This is my story of finding the perfect side dish: BEANS!

I like to blame my short comings in bean cooking on my mom...although it really was never her fault but this story I am about to tell you is rather convincing.  We returned home one afternoon to find black smoke pouring from my upstairs bedroom window, which I had left cracked open. The fire alarm was screaming and as we stood in front of our home the neighbors ran over saying they had called the fire department and thanks to God that we were not in the house.  My mom, whose mouth had been agape regained her self and exclaimed, "my beans!"  My poor mother who I have mentioned before is an excellent home cook, but on this particular day she had set a pot of beans to boil while she ran an errand.  She covered the beans with water, topped the pot with a lid...and forgot to turn down the heat.  While we were out the water evaporated in the pot and the lid became welded shut to the pot.  We love to tease my mom about having to throw away her pot and all the drama that ensued from trying to air out the house in the following days from the stink of burnt beans.  Every time that I burned my beans I would think of my mom and smile, at least I did not smoke out the whole house.

After my first bean fiasco with Boris in the house he carefully taught me how to make beans.  I was thrilled!  Finally my favorite side dish could be a regular in the house.  I got out my favorite recipe for Chili, bragging to Boris how good it was and started to make my beans. Two hours pass, three... the beans were still hard as rocks!  What could possibly have gone wrong this time?  They had enough water, I followed Boris' instructions perfectly... ah but the beans I had purchased at the grocery store were old and stale and even if I cooked those beans all day they never would become soft.  Boris to the rescue again, he introduced me to a magical shop that we had in Napa where he purchased ALL of his beans for the winery kitchen; Rancho Gordo. A whole shop filled with shiny neat packages of very fresh beans and not just the 3 or 4 kinds you can find in the grocery store, no at Rancho Gordo they grow heirloom varietals of beans.  I was in bean heaven!  Making beans was becoming so easy! Then I met the owner, Steve Sando, it was love at first bean conversation.  I bought his book that day, he even signed it for me :D  I had endless recipes to try with his endless supply of beans.  Could it get any better?

When we moved to Mexico I discovered true Frijoles de the Olla.  An Olla is a clay pot, it has many uses but my personal favorite is for making beans.  When you make beans in an Olla it takes less time to cook and they come out creamy.  No amount of cooking time, even with fresh beans can make a bean creamy like cooking in a simple clay pot.  We purchased one for $15 pesos after moving into our home in San Miguel de Allende, GTO and it is getting well used!  I make a pot of beans every week to use for sides or sometimes even the main course.

Now THAT is what bean should look like!  Yum!
For Dinner tonight we will have Frijoles Charros inspired by Steve's Anasazi Cowboy Beans in his book Heirloom Beans and what we call in home Tacos Huevones (Lazy Tacos) also known as Tacos Placeros (Market Tacos).

Lazy Tacos
The whole point of lazy tacos is that you are able to walk down the street to the little tienditas to buy a few simple ingredients, a six-pack of your favorite beer and back home to really enjoy the rest of the day.  I normally just heat some tortillas and then lay out a platter with the remaining ingredients and allow everyone to build their own as desired.

Warm Tortillas
Queso Fresco, the whole wheel and a small knife to slice it at the table
Avocado Slices
Key Limes Cut in Half
Salsa, or even better, Nopales Salad
Salt Shaker
Frosty Cold Beers

Frijoles Charros
Getting ready to make beans


2 cups Pinto Beans, already soaked (or Black beans if you want to be more traditional)
2 Slabs of Bacon, cubed
1/2 Green Bell Pepper
1 Jalapeno or Serrano
1 small Onion
1 clove Garlic
2 Tomatoes
1 Tbsp Salt
Cilantro and chopped Onion, for garnish

Brown the bacon in a skillet.
Chop the Onions, Garlic and Chilies, add to the skillet and saute
Add your meat, sauteed vegetables and soaked beans to your Olla, cover with water by 1" and set to simmer over low heat for 2 hours.
Chop the tomatoes and add to the Olla, season with salt, cook for another 30 minutes.
When ready ladle the beans and their broth into deep dishes, garnish with cilantro and chopped onion if you desire.
Serve and enjoy!

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