After Zumba today (after our leader nearly killed us with a particularly vigorous workout for a Monday morning - a day where he is generally a little easy on us) I stopped at the grocery store and bought some dried pinto beans, some bacon, and some corn tortillas (this was in case I was too exhausted to make cornbread). I decided I was making a big pot of beans to honor the May cold front that is supposed to sweep our away. It's noon and it is only 73...so that may be the cold front! They say we may actually get into the mid 50s as a low tonight....that would be a great thing! It's been so hot and muggy lately...no rain and in a drought, but thick humidity just hangs in the air, collecting the sand and dust that blows by and coats everything in sight. As a matter of fact, my lights were flickering yesterday and this morning and I saw them POWER WASHING THE ELECTRICAL WIRES in Port Isabel because there was so much crud building up on the lines that they were arcing and sparking and causing outages. Good grief!
Anyway, I obviously couldn't soak the beans overnight, which is my preference, so I used a "quick soak" method. You put the beans in a bowl and pick out any unsightly ones and any stones hiding as beans, then rinse with hot water. Rinse and drain a couple of times...it's amazing how gunky the water looks when you rinse beans. Then, you put them in a pan, cover with 2 inches of hot water and set them on to boil. Allow to boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Then, rinse again (really nasty looking water now) and get ready to cook them.
Here's how I do it:
My Way :-)
Dried pinto beans - pre-soaked or fast-soak method - I used just half of a pound today
1 small yellow onion - large chop (or 1/2 of a large onion)
2 cloves garlic - finely diced or put through a garlic press
5 or 6 thick slices of bacon cut into cubes (I cut the strip down the middle then large dice)
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I'll probably add more later - but the bacon is already salty)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups hot Water or Vegetable Broth
A sprig of fresh Oregano - leave on the stem - remove stem before serving
Cilantro - if desired - leaves only
Jalapeno peppers - if desired
Chunky Salsa or Homemade Salsa - 1 cup (I tempered with some bean juice)
Masa Harina - if want the bean juice to thicken
After beans have been prepped, set aside in fresh hot water.
In large saucepan or Dutch Oven, render bacon until there is enough bacon grease to cook the onions.
|Pork Fat Rules!|
Add the onions to the bacon and cook until softened (2 or 3 minutes) and then add the garlic, cooking until just softened (about 1-2 minutes).
|chop the onion - not too small|
|Add the onion to the bacon and cook it all up|
Add the the dried spices and stir around.
|The spices ready to add|
|Stir the spices into the onion|
Add the beans and hot broth and/or water to cover the beans by a good 3 or 4 inches. (adding cold water to hot beans will cause them to split)
|Used water today - added the beans - it's ready to roll!|
Add fresh jalapenos at this point if muy caliente beans desired.
Bring to low boil, reduce to simmer. Cook until beans are nearly tender (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours) - if water gets too low, add 1 cup at a time - again, use hot water when adding to the pot.
|1 hour into cooking - this is when I add the stem of oregano|
|1 1/2 hour into cooking - don't forget to pull the stem from the oregano before serving!|
Add salsa and/or cilantro if desired and cook for about 15 more minutes. You don't want to add a tomato product prior to the beans being cooked to tender point. Tomatoes make beans tough...I'm sure there's a scientific reason for that....something to do with the acid making the beans not cook properly.
Test for flavor - add salt if needed. (I like to put some beans and juice in a ramekin and let it cool down for a few minutes to test - otherwise I burn my tongue and can no longer taste effectively!)
|The first taste test - haven't added the salsa yet - want to make sure it's the right time|
If you want your bean juice to be thicker, thoroughly mix 3 tablespoons masa harina in 1/2 cup tepid water until all lumps dissolved and stir mixture into beans, bringing beans back up to a boil. Sauce will thicken within 15-20 minutes or so.
|Masa added to thicken up the bean "juice"|
Yummm...the smell of beans cooking reminds me of home and childhood. We sometimes had beans and cornbread for a meal...and it was always so good. I think my Mom used a smoked Ham Hock - but I like bits of bacon and onion in my beans. Just delicious.
I also enjoy slicing up beef sausage and adding it to the pot - and I've added ground beef in the in the past as well...although that borders on chili with beans.
I don't add the jalapenos or cilantro with the teen...he's not a fan. Tonight I believe I'll be adding some sliced brats into the mix....and I would like this over rice too. There's so much you can do with a pot of beans!
Since I started on this it's dropped to 69 degrees and it's 5:00 in the afternoon. Guess we did get a little cold front after all! It's nice...and will likely be the last time we see cool temperatures until next October or November!
Here's a good recipe for basic cornbread:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 whole egg plus 1 egg white
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all dry ingredients - whisk to combine
Mix all wet ingredients in a 2 cup measuring cup with a spout
Whisk until egg thoroughly combined and oil incorporated
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated with spoon or wire whisk
I make cornbread muffins - this makes about 10 muffins. Place muffin liners in muffin tin and use a large cookie dough scoop to equally distribute the batter between the muffin cups. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Start checking at 15 minutes. Muffins will be firm to the touch on top and barely turning light brown on the edges.
My momma would be crumbling her cornbread in a glass of buttermilk. My husband would be crumbling his cornbread into the beans (and he would just as soon I not put so much bacon in the beans). My middle son wouldn't touch them if they had any bacon in the beans. I think my oldest would just be happy to have some cornbread and beans...but if a steak was included I KNOW my oldest would be happy. As for the teen and I, we'll butter our cornbread and eat it on the side.
Bon Appetit, Ya'll!!!