Friday, September 12, 2014

Frijoles, Take 1: Basic Beans

I'm dating a Mexican, as I have mentioned before. We've been together for 2.5 ish years and some of the perks of being with a Mexican are the access to the amazing culinary world that is traditional Mexican cooking. Like the pure bliss that is a homemade corn tortilla or tortilla hecho de mano. His family are brilliant cooks and naturally the matriarch's want that quality in the woman he is with.

Enter me.

Chef. Check. Baker. Check. Ability to cook Mexican dishes. Not so much. Practice makes perfect as they say, so I bought a couple cookbooks for Mexican food from authors that were hailed as being truly auténicos. My first attempt at something beyond the realm of a tortilla--which was a challenge, by the way, and is also supposedly the most simple--is pinto beans. So I bring you, my attempt and subsequential failure at making frijoles. Oh, and because a sad story isn't what you came here for, my knight in shining armor rescues me at the end. Don't worry. (I know you were worried.)

I made myself some Agua de Sandia and consulted the lovely ladies from Muy Bueno for a simple way to make pinto beans. There are thousands of ways to make pinto beans. Each family from each region does it differently. I always forget to take that into account. So while the lovely ladies from Muy Bueno are from Northern Mexico and Texas, my man is from Jalisco and that's a whole lot of space and recipes between those two areas. To me, beans are beans, but to mi Mexicano, it is a way of life and heritage. Someday I hope to understand that difference.


I gathered my ingredients: a bag of dried pinto beans, a white onion, and salt. I happened to have some salt from Colima that we bought while visiting his family in Jalisco. It packs a punch.

I poured out my beans onto a cutting board to pull out any that were shriveled, broken, or discolored; as well as any pebbles, if there had been any--there wasn't.

Then, the directions said to rinse off the beans for about 3 minutes under cold water.

Finally, to soak the beans for 2-4 hours. I was doing this later at night on a Friday, so I figured leaving them to soak overnight would be no big deal.

Friday night pre-soak.
Saturday morning, after soaking for 12 ish hours.
Saturday morning, I woke up, poured out the soaking water, added some new water and put them back on the stove. Turned the heat onto medium-high to get the water to boil and then reduce it down to a simmer temperature. Difficulties ensued. I may or may not definitely added too much water; so getting the whole pot hot enough for a boil was a challenge to say the least. Once it did boil, I then had trouble finding the appropriate simmering heat. C'est la vie! Eventually, they got cookin' real good and I added in my onion and salt. Just in time for the boyfriend to appear and try them out. He said not bad, they were almost done, just needed a bit more salt. They tasted a little salty to me, but he's the expert, so I added more salt and kept on cooking. Fast forward, they are done, and now they are too salty, he says. Damage was done. I attempted to salvage, but ultimately we just had to cut our losses and try again.

My beans after cooking...yeah, they even look like there is something left to be desired.

Enter white knight and his abuelita albeit unknowingly.

Since it was my first time, he cut me some major slack and helped rescue me by showing me how his family makes beans.

Their way:

Javi started by putting the beans in the pot (after washing it) and half filling the pot with cold water. He explained to me that when you do this, rather than laying them out on the cutting board, you will find all the "bad" beans because they will float. Interesting and cool. Next, we dumped out that water and added enough water to fully cover the beans and about 1-2 inches above them. Then, we started straight away to boil them and kept them at the medium high heat for the entirety of cooking. We continually added more water as the level got low enough to expose the beans. 2ish hours later...we got frijoles y'all.

Now these are frijoles de pinto.
I am very thankful for this man, words cannot even express. So all in all the recipe didn't quite work for me but maybe if I'd followed it more exactly (and added less water initially) it would have. Luckily my man saved the day. If you made it this far, I question the amount of time you have on your hands, I thank you for reading and say until next time my friends. Next up: Frijoles, Take 2: Frijoles Refritos.

Love Always,

Joanna Rose