Charro Beans

Charro BeansThe Great Southwest
Whenever the weather gets warm, my taste buds automatically go on a road trip through the southwest. It’s a strange phenomenon. The minute the mercury hits 85º, I’ve got chilies on my mind, and margaritas in my hand. Cumin and lime juice find their way into everything I make.

I have often said that I can eat Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—then wash, rinse repeat. But I also love Tex-Mex and New Mexican cuisine. (Nope. They are not the same thing.) Tex-Mex is mainly about larger cuts of meat, mostly pork and beef with a little chicken thrown in for good measure, and usually grilled. In New Mexican cuisine the chilies reign supreme…so much so that the question “Red or Green?” is almost the state motto…

Needless to say these past few days of warm weather have been somewhat spicy. I’ve been doing a lot of grilling ‘cause it’s fast, and there’s been a lot of baseball, so fast is bueno.

I try (key word, try) to have some side dishes prepared ahead of time, so that we’re not just eating slabs of meat in tortillas. (Though I am totally cool with that). Beans are a favorite in all forms. Refried. Black. Ranchero, or these yummy things — Charro Beans.

Feel free to experiment with bean varieties though stay with the larger ones for best results.

Charro Beans
Adapted from Food and Wine July 2010
Serves 10

1 1/2 pounds dried beans (pinto, cranberry, rattle snake, or other large dried bean), picked over and rinsed
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound thickly sliced bacon, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1 large yellow onion, chopped
16 garlic cloves, peeled
3 large jalapeños—halved, stemmed and seeded
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 large bay leaves
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

In a large pot, cover the beans with water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Drain, rinse the beans well, and set them aside while you are dealing with the other ingredients.

In the same large pot that you cooked the beans, add the bacon, and cook it until the fat is rendered and the pieces are crispy. Then add the chopped onion to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened.

Next add the beans back into the pot, along with the chicken broth, garlic, jalapeños, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, and 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil.

Simmer over moderately low heat until the beans are very tender. This will take about 2 and-a-half hours.

Discard the jalapeños and bay leaves. Pick out and mash the garlic cloves, then stir them back into the beans.

Season the beans with salt and pepper and serve.

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