Beans-R-Us

You know the rest, right?

😉

Beans are truly a superior food, as most of the world knows; they’re cheap, versatile and really good for you. Beans are high in antioxidants, fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. There’s some argument that including beans regularly in your diet may help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancer. And beyond all that, they’re genuinely filling and delicious.

So is there such a thing as a fartless bean? Well, sorta, yeah. Soaking dry beans overnight definitively works, as does cooking beans in the left over liquor from the last batch you cooked. Lately, there are reports that a couple of probiotics, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum added to beans will cause them to produce less fartáge, but I’ve not tried that. Soaking them overnight, (8 to 12 hours), actually starts the germination process, breaks down some of the complex bean sugars and thereby causes less hot air.

When it comes to shopping, you’ll get better quality and flavor out of dried beans then canned, as well as more beans for your buck. Now, if you see a killer deal on canned beans, don’t pass them up; I snagged a dozen 15 ounce cans for $6 at my local store the other day.

To get the best out of canned beans, definitely rinse them before you use them. The liquid in canned beans contains a bunch of starch and salt that you just don’t need. Rinsing that out with plenty of nice, cold water will get rid of the crap, improve flavor, and helps remove the metallic taste you sometimes get with a canned bean.

Now for dried beans: Soaking really necessary,  it if it’s what you’ve always done, then do it. If you just don’t have enough time for a proper overnight soak, you can do a speed soak: Rinse your beans thoroughly in cold water, then toss them in a pot and cover with 3+ inches of nice, cold water. Bring ’em almost to a boil, until little bubbles are forming around the edge of the pot like when you scald milk. Pull ’em off the heat and let them sit uncovered for an hour. Drain ’em and then cook ’em. I always like low and slow as possible when cooking beans, they can develop flavor and marry whatever you put in with them.

If you’re using lentils, split peas or little bitty beans of some other variety, you can just toss ’em into a soup or stew with no soaking and let them do the low and slow with the rest of the gang. So long as you’ve got a few hours cooking time, they’ll end up just fine.

And speaking of varieties, stock up folks! We keep the following in our pantry at all times: Kidney, Pinto, Great Northern, Black, Garbanzo, Split, Lentils (red, white and green), Pink, and Cannellini. There are a bunch more out there, especially with the resurgence in heirloom varieties these days; try ’em, you’ll like ’em.

Like baked beans? Make your own, they’ll beat the tail off of anything from a can. Great Northerns are one of my fave legumes. They’re the big, white ones with a nice firm texture and delicate flavor; they are perfectly suited to soaking up all the rich flavors of a great baked bean.

1 Pound Great Northern Beans
1/2 Pound thick cut Pepper Bacon
1 medium Sweet Onion
1-3 Jalapeño Chiles
2 Cups Pork Stock, (Chicken or veggie is fine too)
1 Cup Tomato Purée
1/2 Cup dark brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Blackstrap Molasses
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

Soak your beans overnight in a glass container. Use enough water to cover the beans by a good 3″ to 4″.

Preheat oven to 250° F.

Cut bacon into 1/4″ cubes or pieces. Mince onion, field strip and dice jalapeño.

In a large oven-safe casserole or pot over medium high heat on your stove top, cook the bacon until it starts to get crispy. Remove the bacon and set it on a pepper towels to drain.

Add onion and jalapeño and onion and cook until the onion starts to get translucent.

Add the tomato purée, sugar, molasses, and salt, blend well; reduce heat to low.

Drain the bean liquid into a measuring cup; keep 2 cups of that.

Toss the drained beans into the casserole. Add the 2 cups of bean liquor, the pork stock and the salt. Return to medium high heat and bring everything to a rolling boil.

Slide that baby into the preheated oven and allow to cook for at least 6 hours, and 8 is better.

Hands down, our favorite version is a classic Tex-Mex bean; here’s how we do ours,

Go-To Tex Mex Beans

1 16 ounce can (Or 16 ounces dry) Black Beans
1 Cup stock, (Pork preferred, beef or Veg OK)
1 Tablespoon Shallot, minced
1/4 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, cored and minced.
1/4 Roma Tomato, stemmed, cored, seeded and minced.
1 strip Bacon, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander
Sea Salt & ground Pepper to taste

If using dry beans, soak overnight per directions, drain and rinse. If you used canned beans, pour them into a sieve and rinse until the water runs clear.

Heat stock to rolling boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low as soon as it gets there.

Throw everybody into the pot and cook low and slow, covered, for at least an hour, and more is better. If things start to get a bit thick, add more stock to desired consistency. We like the jus to coat a spoon, like a thin soup.

Salute!

Frijoles Mexicanos

Del sent a comment on the prior post, to whit;
“Maybe you’ll know the answer here but I’m wondering about the use of black beans in a dish referred to as Tex-mex. No bean of that sort has ever crossed the door of any cook on the Tejano side of my family. I’m wondering if it’s a difference of where in Mexico (ones) family originated or if pinto beans were all they found when they got to Texas so that’s what became traditional.
One side of the Mexican heritage in my family came from San Luis Potosi in 1917 and the other side varies from those who came to Texas direct from the Canary Islands in the 1500s to those with origins in all parts of northern Mexico.
No black beans anywhere there or in the family owned small restaurants that we favor. We do see them some in the upscale places (when I get forced into going to them) and in the ones that feature seafood from the central and south gulf coast.
Thoughts?”

(Slightly edited for content, because I can)

It’s an interesting question, indeed. And what a sad, sad thing, to be without frijoles negros in ones life…

First off, I’ll say without hesitation that we’ve had black beans in a bunch of Tex Mex joints in Texas, in the same neck of the woods as Del; what does that say, other than that we apparently don’t go to the same places? Not much.

Next, let’s look at the regions where Del’s people came from.

In the dominant cuisine of the central Mexican El Bajio region where San Luis Potosi is located, the pinto is and was more common than black beans, by far.

And those Canary Island roots are another great melting pot cuisine. Influences of the native Guanche people have blended with the ruling Spanish, as well as the cuisines of African and Latin American slaves and workers. There are beans and bean dishes there, but it’s as likely to be Ropa Vieja made with garbanzos as it is any other dish or variety. So, no big black bean influence there, either, (Albeit there are ‘native’ varieties in Spain and Portugal).

That said, my rather extensive studies of Mexican cuisine indicate that, in fact, black beans are quite common in Mexico, but more so by far in the south than the north and on the east coast more than the west. If you read Mexican regional cookbooks by genuine experts, you’ll find both black and reds in profusion. That said, the regional variations in Mexican cookery are easily as complex as Italian, Spanish, or French cuisines, and anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong.

Black beans were indeed brought north and integrated into Tex Mex cooking from the get go to some degree, (They’re also common in New Mexican, Caribbean, and Cuban cooking). For my mind, the predominance of the pinto or chili bean en El Norte is likely more driven by gringo taste than by Tex Mex cook’s preferences; the black bean is a relative new comer as a commonly legume en Los Estados Unidos; the reds have been around far longer.

Regardless, cuisines including Tex Mex are rarely static; they evolve and that is a good thing. To some degree, I question the term “authentic” quite often; I mean, technically, ‘Confit’ means meat cooked in oil, and only meat. As such, when Daniel Boulud features a ‘tomato confit’ as part of a dish, is that not authentic?

So, where do Black Turtle beans, as they’re formally known, (as well as Black Magic, Blackhawk, Domino, Nighthawk, Valentine, and Zorro), come from? After all, that’s the real crux of the debate, isn’t it? According to El Universidad Autónoma Agraria Antonio Narroas in Saltillo, Mexico, and as fate would have it, Phaseolus vulgaris were first cultivated around 7,000 years ago in… Central America and Mexico.

The bottom line to me is this; if you make it and you like it, you can call it whatever you like, and use any color bean that floats your boat.

Adios.

Tex Mex Rice & Beans

Got a message the other day to the effect that I hadn’t posted go-to recipes for Tex Mex rice and bean sides, to which the writer added, ‘I know you got ’em’. Indeed I do, and my bad for not ponying up; let’s correct that error and omission, shall we?

I hesitate to call these classics; they’re just what we do most and like best with our stuff. Try ’em, I’ll bet you’ll like ’em.

Go-To Tex Mex Rice:
1 Cup white Rice
1 3/4 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon unsalted Butter
1/2 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, cored and minced.
1-2 slices sweet Onion, minced
3-5 sprigs Cilantro, minced
1/2 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
Pinch of Sea Salt
Grind of black Pepper

Rinse your rice in a colander or sieve two or three times until the water runs clear.

Heat stock and butter to a boil, then throw rice, chile, and onion into the pot and cook as per directions for rice.

When the rice is done cooking and the it’s rest phase, add cilantro, oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Go-To Tex Mex Beans

1 16 ounce can (Or 16 ounces dry) Beans
1 Cup stock, (Pork, Beef, or Veg)
1 Tablespoon Shallot, minced
1/4 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, cored and minced.
1/4 Roma Tomato, stemmed, cored, seeded and minced.
1 strip crispy Bacon, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander
Sea Salt & ground Pepper to taste

If using dry beans, soak overnight per directions, drain and rinse. If you used canned beans, pour them into a sieve and rinse until the water runs clear. Use whatever variety you like best, it really doesn’t matter.

Heat stock to rolling boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low as soon as it gets there.

Throw everybody into the pot and cook low and slow, covered, for at least an hour, and more is better. If things start to get a bit thick, add more stock to desired consistency. We like the jus to coat a spoon, like a thin soup.

These two complimenting anything Tex Mex will be a guaranteed thing of beauty!

Salute!