Once a year I get this harebrained idea (which I believe stems from my upbringing) that urges me to spend two 19-hour days back to back, standing in a hot kitchen, working with argumentative ingredients that ultimately result in a severe backache and the euphoria that comes from eating a homemade tamale with a hot cup of coffee. Continue reading “To Tamale or Not To Tamale… That is the Question”
South Texican Kitchen Talk with Grandma Ollie: The Molcajete
Last week, Grandma Ollie stayed at our place to visit, and during our many adventures together, I decided to tape some of our conversations (with her permission, of course).
This particular morning, we were admiring one of my molcajetes that my Tia Eloisa had given me. A molcajete is a Mexican-style mortar and pestle made from lava rock and is an essential tool in any Mexican or Tex-Mex kitchen, like mine!
Beans, Bacon, and Bravo TV’s Best New Restaurant
Today has been a pretty awesome day. A few days ago, I was notified that I was chosen as one of the top five finalists for Bravo TV’s Best New Restaurant “The Mentorship” contest. And, today, they posted my video submission to their YouTube page. On March 9th, we shall see who gets to spend the day with Chef and Restaurant Entrepreneur, Tom Colicchio. He will be mentoring one very lucky individual, and my friend Mary has advised me to “start packing my bags” because I’ve already won. I love the positive thinking, and I couldn’t agree more with having a winning vision. While I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and Best New Restaurant, this opportunity is way more than just being a fan. It’s an incredible chance to change dreams to reality, as my Bear and I have long dreamed of owning our own restaurant.
At the very same time, the DFW area has been blasted with snow, frozen pellets of ice and other cold weather phenomenons that require copious amounts of hot chocolate and warm food to be consumed. So, this morning, I got the cast iron skillet out, heated up some butter tortillas from Central Market, got some bacon in the pan, and took my already-created Borracho Beans (drunk beans) to task with a masher to make refried beans!
The combination of bacon, beans and Bravo TV’s finalist news was the absolute perfect combination to celebrate while staying nice and toasty inside. I’m also posting today because my friend, Kerrie, has been asking about this Borracho Bean recipe for months now and will hunt me down to kill me if I don’t post sometime soon. So, here we go!
1 lb dried pinto beans
1/2 medium white onion chopped
1 large tomato (or 1/2 package of cherry tomatoes will do)
3-4 uncooked bacon strips chopped
1 bottle of Mexican beer (Negro Modelo or Dos Equis preferably)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste
6 quart pot (cast iron enamel preferred but not required – the pot will be roomy for the beans)
Separate then discard any broken or unappealing dry beans, as well as possible rocks or inedible pieces from the dry beans. Rinse the beans in a 6 quart pot with warm water, slush around and discard the water, leaving the beans in the pot. Add water to the pot to cover the rinsed beans, then place the pot on a stove top and boil rapidly for 45 minutes. Be sure to watch the pot and add water if it reduces too much. The beans must stay completely covered during this process.
Once the beans have boiled for 45 minutes, remove from the stove top, carefully discard the water only and gently rinse the beans again. (You can use a sieve, but I find that covering the top with the pot cover and being careful over the sink with pot holders usually does the trick.) Add the chopped onion, tomato, bacon strips, and beer to the pot, then cover the rest with warm water until the beans are completely covered with about an inch of water above bean level. Return the beans to the stove at medium heat.
In a separate skillet pan on medium heat, lightly toast the cumin seeds and black peppercorns until they become aromatic. Add the toasted cumin seeds and peppercorns to a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Roughly chop the peeled garlic cloves and add them to the molcajete. Crush the cumin seeds, peppercorns and garlic together until they become a paste. You can add a little water to make it easier once the peppercorns are broken up. Add the mixture to the beans, adding more water to the molcajete to help motivate the paste to leave the surface. Gently stir the simmering beans and leave to cook for another hour.
Towards the mid-end of the cooking process, add salt to taste. This is a controversial thing, as some say adding salt at the start makes the beans hard and others say you can’t add salt at the end because it doesn’t flavor anything. Well, I add right towards the middle of the end and it usually does the trick – happy medium. I’m positive there is a scientific reason for each method out there, but my way works. And, if it ain’t broke…
At this point, if you’d like to add salsa, jalapeños or additional seasonings like garlic powder, cumin powder or onion powder, you can. You can even add roasted green chiles which make a flavorful addition. However, I have found that simple really is best, especially if you want to make refried beans with the borracho beans. And, let them simmer but don’t boil to mush. The flavors must develop but the beans will get too soft if you keep them simmering for too long. Just keep an eye out and a spoon handy for tasting.
To make refried beans (the right way, in my opinion), fry up some bacon in a cast iron skillet. Remove the bacon, leave the drippings in the pan and add the borracho beans, liquid and all, to the pan and let out all your aggression with a potato masher, creating a creamy, textured, bacony bean to eat with tortillas. The longer they sit on the heat, the thicker the beans will become, and that’s what you want. Don’t serve the beans too runny. That’s never fun for anyone. Add bacon to the bean-smeared tortilla, and you have my very favorite breakfast celebration taquito in your hands, my friend.
Here’s to hoping there’s another celebration taquito in my future. I’ll keep you posted!