May 15, 2017

Mexican Style Beans (Frijoles)

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Beans are a staple of Mexican cuisine and a favorite element in so many Mexican dishes. This classic recipe for frijoles is easy to make, versatile, vegan, and healthy. Enjoy these beans with warm tortillas, as a filling for burritos, or with rice and rotis as my Indian family does!


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Pinto beans are the most popular bean in the United States and northwestern Mexico. Pinto means speckled or spotted referring to the bean's mottled skin which becomes uniform when cooked. When properly prepared pinto beans have a deliciously creamy texture, mild flavor, and an ability to absorb flavors well. I'm using simi beans which are a local favorite here in Nepal. As you can see in the above photo simi beans are a bit rosier in hue than pinto beans, but their flavor and texture is quite similar.

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A Latina friend in my native California taught me to make these Mexican-style beans or frijoles. Each family has their own unique way of preparing beans with differences in bean variety, the type of pot used, specific seasonings, and method of cooking. Traditionally, an earthenware pot called an olla was used to cook beans. As you can see in the above photo an olla is shaped a lot like the handi used in Indian cooking and serves much the same purpose. I have never seen an olla in use to cook beans in any kitchen Mexican or otherwise. The most common vessel I've seen used to cook beans in both Spanish-speaking and Okie communities is a large heavy-duty aluminum stockpot begotten at the Kmart or the local ACE hardware store. I use my Indian-style pressure cooker to save time.

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I have often read that lard or manteca is the most authentic fat to use in Mexican cooking. In the town where I was raised the cooking fat of choice for Mexican-American families and most other ethnic groups was Crisco. The famed digestible vegetable shortening or manteca vegetal was used for tortillas and tamales as well as pie crusts and fried chicken. I'm not from Butcher Holler but as Loretta Lynn said in the commercial,
"Crisco will do you proud every time." 

Lard was probably the preferred fat before World War II. Possibly the only place to find lard in the 70's and 80's was at a carnicería or Mexican butcher. I've heard lard is making a comeback though. Choose your favorite cooking oil for this recipe. The preferred chilis for Mexican cooking in California are Serranos and their milder cousins, Jalapeños. Spanish-style yellow onions are used exclusively in Mexican cuisine. To soak the beans or not is another choice. Soaking the beans overnight will save you cooking time. I never saw beans soaked in my little community though so I don't soak either. I do use a pressure cooker which does cut down cooking time to about half. My Indian family loves these with rice but you could certainly enjoy them in a more traditional manner atop a tostada, alongside warm tortillas, or as a filling for burritos. Or try them topped with a little queso fresco, chopped tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cilantro as a hearty soup! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 C dry pinto beans (or dry simi beans)
1-2 TBS cooking oil (scant amount to cover bottom of pot)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 TBS garlic paste or 3 minced garlic cloves
1-3 Jalapeño or Serrano chilis or any green chili you prefer (omit for less heat)
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Sort through dried beans and remove pebbles. Rinse the beans in water in a colander and set aside. Heat oil in a large stock pot or pressure cooker and fry the onion until it softens.

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 2) When onion begins to turn translucent add garlic, chilis, and black pepper to frying onion. Fry for about 2 minutes or until chilis begin to blister and garlic loses it's raw smell. Do not brown the onions!

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3) Add the rinsed beans, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough water to cover the beans by about 3 inches to the pot or pressure cooker. If using stock pot: bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Check on the pot every 15 minutes to make sure there's enough water, add more water from time to time as necessary. Make sure to keep adding water so the pot does not dry out. If using pressure cooker: seal lid on pressure cooker and allow to steam until beans are tender. This takes about 40 to 50 minutes in my Indian-style pressure cooker.

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4) The beans are ready when cooked so soft you can press them through your fingers and skins slip off easily. (Cooking time depends on the age and quality of beans, drier ones will require a longer simmering time.) Traditionally the beans are left a bit soupy so you can dip your tortilla in them or mash them to make frijoles refritos. Salt to taste and retrieve chilis before serving. Serve with warm tortillas or rice and rotis like we eat them. Once cooled the beans will keep for up to one week refrigerator in an airtight container.

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Helpful Hints:
You could certainly use other sorts of beans in this recipe such as black beans, kidney beans, Peruano, Mayocoba, Santa Maria, or Flor de Mayo.

And to all moms out there:


Including moms of furry babies,



Or not so furry babies, 
HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY!!!

22 comments:

  1. Fantastic and simple recipe. It is amazing to think that these beans came all the way from Mexico and now have become the staple food in north india. Punjabis swear by their rajma chawal all the time. I do relish this with roti, with rice it gets a little too heavy, but none the less very tasty.

    Talking about foreign foods, quiet a lot of Indian food has come from outside.

    http://www.indiatimes.com/culture/food/the-heartbreaking-truth-about-indian-foods-that-are-not-indian-at-all-225103.html

    BTW, a very a happy Mother's Day to you too.

    Apple

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apple,
      You need to eat rice AND beans to get the perfect protein mix of amino acids!

      Just think of all the New World plants the Portuguese and Spanish brought to India: beans, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, chilis, - can't imagine Indian food without'em!

      Delete
  2. Ah, can't imagine not being able to get lard. We've always got a block in the fridge.

    I really like beans. I'd quite cheerfully go without meat a lot of the time as long as I could have plenty of beans and lentils; sadly my husband does not feel the same way. Maybe Mexican ones would tempt him more...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mim,
      I've been watching a lot of British cooking shows & was surprised at how much lard is used.

      I've never met anyone that didn't like pinto beans, especially when made Mexican or charro style!

      Delete
    2. Lard 50/50 with butter is classic for pastry - though not many people do it that way any more. (You do get lovely crisp pastry that way.) It's also the must-have for frying chips, as far as some people are concerned.

      I mainly use it for yorkshire puddings/toad in the hole. It's got a really high burning point, and batter dishes need really hot fat in order to puff up and go crispy.

      Delete
    3. I was actually surprised to see beef suet used in puddings & cakes on some of the British TV shows.
      I have heard that since the trans fats in vegetable shortenings were provednto be more causative of heart disease than animal fats in the 90's lard is being used more in the US. But I think it's just foodie/hipster types. I'll stick with BUTTER thank you!

      Delete
    4. It's *got* to be suet for a steamed pudding or dumplings. We can buy it in boxes, already made into little pellets. I always have a box in the cupboard. Atora is the main brand; they do a veggie suet for people who can't/won't eat the regular kind.

      Delete
    5. Suet is winter bird feed in the US. I guess hydrogenated veg fats took over in the US because they were a cheap way to use leftovers from cotton ginning & other ag production.

      Delete
  3. Those are the sweetest Mother's Day photos I've seen!
    That looks delicious, I could live on beans (and being a vegetarian I often do!) Yes, the meat eating Brits love their lard. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vix,
      Thank you!
      I suppose the Spanish are the only other Europeans so fond of lard?
      xox

      Delete
  4. Happy Mother's Day to you.

    Crisco is magical stuff. I prefer the butter flavoured shortening in baking things like gingersnaps as it extends the shelf-life. You can't beat it for tamales either-the masa comes up so light and not greasy.

    I've noted your bean recipe for future use. You can never have too many bean recipes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Goody,
      For baking cookies NOTHING is better than butter flavor Crisco! Crisco makes the best textured & shaped cookies ever.
      My friend makes the best vegan tamales with Crisco. She makes a dessert tamale with pineapple & cilantro that is to die fo!

      I've met a lot of WASP-y Americans that think that beans are hard or finicky to cook. Beans are actually quite easy to cook, they just require patience because they take so long.

      Delete
  5. I have a friend who still cooks with Manteca to this day. It's so bad for you, but her Mexican food is so amazing. Good to know Crisco can be used instead. I'll mention it to her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi TWL,
      Oh I think the fears of cholesterol are a bit overblown. I've never eaten lard but I'm not giving up butter!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  6. I love pintos and I'm definitely gonna try this recipe. No Crisco for me though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tonya,
      I use use rice bran oil here in Nepal, works great. Hope you enjoy the pintos!

      Delete
  7. These look good! I love the idea of peppers in my beans! Yummy!

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  8. Long before it was fashionable to read the labels, my female relatives were peering squinty-eyed at fats concocted to "reduce cholesterol". Mum gave us 4-H novices quite a talk about olio! Butter it is, and Crisco, and lard IF one knows its source and must make a pie crust. "Nothing smells worse than bad fat..."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Beth,
      Ain't that the truth!
      I just bought some unappetizingly named "All Vegetable Delicious Fat Spread" at our local dept store hoping it would be a semi-decent margarine. BLECH. Despite being made of vegetable oils it tastes like petroleum based parrafin wax. I tried making a batch of Mexican chocolate cookies with it hoping the dark chocolate , cinnamon, and chili flavors would mask the awful taste- NOPE! Then I tried greasing a tin for banana bread with it- the entire loaf reeked of the nasty stuff. Even the neighbor's buffalo turned up her nose at the cookies & the bread baked with that crap! Into the bin & back to butter for me!

      Delete

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