Friday, May 8, 2009

The Joy of BEANS . . . Plain, Refried & Chile

I love beans!  if you don't, you must not have had them fixed right!  I guess I should talk about cooking them in the first place!

There are many methods that include soaking, with and without baking soda, boiling them a short time, draining and adding more water, etc.  Maybe I am lazy or just stuck in a rut;  I just like the way that my mom made them.  She learned from her mom, who was born and pretty much grew up in Mexico, so I have stayed with that . . . well kind of, she never used lard, but loved it when I showed her that little trick!

Crock Pot Beans (yeilds 6 quarts...use a 6 quart crock pot) 
  • Measure out 6 cups dried beans
  • Pick through and make sure you have found all the rocks, dirt clods, weird looking beans and any other debris that might be in the batch.
  • Put beans into a colander and rinse, rinse, rinse.
  • Pour into the crock, fill with water, remove any floaters then dump the water using the colander to catch the beans.
  • Put them back into the crock pot.
  • Add a chopped onion, minced clove of garlic, teaspoon salt, and a small scoop (about 2 T) of lard.  Yes, I said lard.  It just isn't the same without it!  The flavor is subtle, but makes a difference.  Don't be afraid to use it. It doesn't go rancid as quickly as shortening.  You can store it on a pantry shelf.
  • When I get wild and crazy, I  throw in a bay leaf (wish leaf . . . if you get it at the table, you get to make a wish), cumin, oregano, red chile powder, tabasco, Frank's Hot Sauce, or liquid smoke. They can be all used simultaneously or individually.
  • Fill the crock with water, turn it to high, and cover the top with a towel folded in half.
  • Mine are usually ready in about 4 hours.  I check them about half way through and see if more water is needed and stir the top beans to the bottom.
  • Now for my usual disclaimer!  I often cook the beans with just the 1 t. salt to accomodate my low sodium diet.  I love to scoop up a cup with lots of juice to sip on.  Major comfort food!  My kids think it's weird, but one has seen the light and realizes how yummy it is.
During our "lean" years, I would serve just plain beans with a little grated cheese the first night. Then I would split the leftovers to make chile beans with half and refried beans with the other half. This provided several more meals throughout the week.

Refried Beans
  • Make sure your beans are very soft.
  • Drain the beans in a colander, saving the juice.
  • Heat lard or (bacon grease if you save that for cooking) in a skillet till it equals about 1/8 inch deep.
  • Place the beans in the pan and fry in the lard, stirring frequently. 
  • Smash with a potato masher or small hand mixer. 
  • If they seem drier than you want, add some of the juice back in.
  • Season with additional salt and same seasonings that I mentioned in the basic bean recipe.  Sometimes I add salsa to really kick up the flavor.
  • If you want them to be really creamy, you can add a little milk while stirring and heating through.  Cheese melts into them really well also.

  • Put cooked beans in a 4 or 6 qt. pot.
  • Add any or all of the following:
  1. 1/2 to 1 pound ground beef (according to preference or budget allotment) scrambled and browned.
  2. 1 large can (14-16 oz) diced tomatoes and/or a can of tomato paste.
  3.  1 medium chopped onion or 1/4 ish cup minced dry onions or 1 T. onion powder (pick one of these options not all three)
  4. 1 clove minced garlic or 1 tsp. garlic powder.
  5. 1 cupish chopped green chiles or if you are a masochist, chopped jalapenos. Can you believe that is being said by someone born and raised in the southwest?!?!?!  Five years in Utah ruined me, I came home a major wimp  =-(
  6. 1-2 tsp. red chile powder.
  7. More of any of the seasonings named in the basic bean recipe.
I'll do pictures sooon!!!  Maybe I should have my husband take pictures while I cook, they would get done faster that way.  He is getting quite a kick out of spotting "blogger moments" these days . .  funny ole feller  . . . think I'll keep him around  . . . yeah I will  =-)