Eddy’s Kitchen: Frijoles a la Charro
Prep time: 30 min. (Allow 8 hours of soak time for the pintos.)
Cook time: 4 hours
Frijoles a la Charro! Add this to your cookbook and everyone will love you.
All outdoor men and women should have a few basic recipes up their sleeves, meals that can be whipped up at home or in camp and served for several days. You want at least three hearty, tasty dishes you never get tired of; a gumbo, a chowder and a great bean recipe like Frijoles a la Charro! (Literally “beans of the horsemen,” or “cowboy beans.”) This is an easy, hearty, delicious bean dish I think you’ll love and prepare often with your own variations.
Why vary the recipe? Because you can! One of the great things about cooking is that we can improvise, innovate and generally tailor dishes to our tastes and available ingredients. For example, there are a couple of variations of pinto bean recipes that have a Hispanic flair to them, Frijoles a la Charro and Borracho beans. Connoisseurs make a big fuss over subtle flavor differences and definitions, but basically they insist Borracho-style pinto bean dishes must have beer added to them (Borracho means “drunk” in Spanish) and Frijoles a la Charro pinto bean recipes should not. Some even argue that the Frijoles a la Charro recipes should not include peppers, either. Okay… The point is, no matter how you augment them or what you call the finished product, these are darn good beans. And this Frijoles a la Charro is a darn good recipe you will enjoy.
I will lay out a basic pinto bean recipe which can be varied and adjusted based on the amount you’re cooking and the tastes you prefer. A little more onion, a few more beans, perhaps less pepper or more bacon, beer or no beer… Tweak and experiment to your heart’s content. I give the ingredients for 2 lb of beans but I usually cook 3-4 lb. Enjoy this bean dish fresh and hot, then cool and refrigerate the rest. After 5 to 7 days, freeze any remaining. You can liven them up on the following days by adding more vegetables!
2 lb. pinto beans.
1/4 lb. ham hock, salt pork, bacon or Tasso ham
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Wash and clean the beans by gently washing and draining in a strainer or pot. Cover the beans with at least an inch of water, add the baking soda and let them soak overnight or all day.
Drain off the soaking water, and clean water and bring to a boil.
Add the onion, pork, bay leaf, cumin, salt and pepper. Turn down to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook. After one hour, begin testing for “doneness.” Add enough water to keep all ingredients slightly covered. Some beans will cook quicker than others, but plan on 1 to 3 hours for basic beans. The onion will almost disappear. I pull out the bay leaf and whatever onion is floating around.
At this stage we have a basic pinto bean recipe. I’ve eaten my fair share of beans like this and they’re great. But we can kick them up a notch in appearance, appeal and flavor. Here comes the magic. We are going to take our wonderful but plain pinto beans and turn them into Frijoles a la Charro.
Ingredients needed to transform ordinary pinto beans into Frijoles a la Charro!
1/4 to 1/3 lb. bacon cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 onion, chopped course
3 to 4 medium course chopped tomatoes
1 to 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 Serrano peppers ends cut off and de-seeded, fine chopped
1 cup of chopped cilantro (omit this is you hate cilantro!)
Salt and pepper
One bottle of beer (okay, this might technically make this Barracho)
Brown the bacon in a 12 inch skillet.
Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, set aside and save.
Sauté the onion and garlic over a medium heat until they begin to soften. Add the chopped Serrano peppers. Cook vegetables until they begin to brown. Add a little salt and pepper in the sautéing process. I like to start with a little higher heat, then dial it down. We want to soften the vegetables, but also caramelize them to bring out more wonderful flavor.
Add the course-cut tomatoes and stir in.
Add the cilantro, mix well and simmer for 10 minutes until the mix is golden brown.
Add the cooked bacon to the simmering beans.
Add the sautéed vegetables to the simmering beans. (Add beer at this time if you want this dish to be Borracho beans.)
Allow to cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!
No matter what you call these beans, I bet you will devour them and come back for more. Easy to cook and great for a camp or around the house. If you watch the short video here or at Eddy’s Kitchen on You Tube you will see me cook Frijoles a la Charro and pick up a few hints and tips. Please adjust and cook what you have available and what is in season. God has blessed us with such a wonderful world.