On Cultural Cooking

I’m a white woman, granted I’m practically from Mexico, but I’m white. I didn’t learn to cook all these crazy recipes that are normal for my region of origin. Being married to someone who is from the same area but not white, means I’ve learned to cook some of the basic comfort food. Not because I’d had to but because I wanted to. Spanish Rice, Molé, Frijoles and Fideo; there’s plenty of recipes out there to master, and none of them are the same for every family. Everyone has their own methods, molcajete, comal, history of learning recipes, and trial and errors. My cooking doesn’t really compare to skills of my Mother or Grandmother-in-laws but I think I’ve got the basics down. During this week I’ll be sharing the recipes for the meals mentioned previously.

Frijoles are easy to make, and easy to plan around. Either by themselves or as a side dish, beans are a versatile protein and add flavor and juices to any meal.

Start off with a little planning, soak 2c of dry Pinto beans in at least 4c of cool water overnight. This helps the beans to cook faster and lets them absorb the water slowly and become sweet yummy morsels later on.

You can cook beans in a crockpot all day or you can do it on the stove in a few hours. I prefer the crockpot method as it just needs minimal checks during the day for an evening meal. I usually leave them on low heat for 6-8hours for perfectly cooked soft beans. If you’re cooking them on the stove, 3hours of simmering on low should do the trick.

Choose your meat or remain meatless if you have vegetarians in your home. Keep in mind that the bouillon added in this recipe is not vegetarian and may be omitted. You can use a Ham hock(or ham bone), fatty bacon, or other equally fatty meats. I’ve had the best success with bacon that’s too fatty to be used for breakfasts. Scale back your chosen meat based on your preference, but about 1/2lb of uncooked bacon is good for 2c of dry beans.

The spice must flow when it comes to Mexican cuisine, and following this advice, I add a lot of spice that you can scale up or down depending upon your adventurous nature. 2Tbsp of Caldo de Tomate, 1tsp of black pepper, 1/2tsp ground cumin, and a touch of salt are a good start. With vegetables, the general consensus is to add onions and cilantro. I’ve come to prefer substituting Cilantro “cubes” over the real thing because of its shelf-life and less cost over time, 2 of them should be plenty for this pot. I also like to add a can of diced tomatoes, it adds some tomato juice flavor and some freshness. Be sure to add your tomatoes near the end of cooking to make sure they don’t disintegrate or overcook. You could add jalepenos or other peppers to spice things up too!

Another option is to make Borracho beans! Which means you add a beer to the beans to give it a salty, wonderful, and aromatic taste depending on the beer you use.

Throw all your starter ingredients into your crockpot or pot and fill it in with water so that everything is covered adaquately. Cover and cook until your beans are nice and soft when you bite into one. You’ll get a woody taste if they aren’t cooked completely. After you bite into one of those, you’ll want to avoid it taste for a long time!

Crumbly Cornbread

I served my beans alongside a cornbread mixture, not unlike jalepeno cornbread sans jalepenos. I mix up the standard cornbread mix, add in a can of creamed corn and a pound of browned ground beef. It makes for a crumbly, moist bread to complement the beans.

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8 thoughts on “On Cultural Cooking

  1. Beans, beans, the musical fruit! The more you eat, the more you want to… break into song! I know, I know.. I did it wrong. Beans aren’t FRUIT! 😛

    Trust me folks, a good ham hock makes a great tasting serving of beans, tho most of the time its easier to come by bacon than a left over ham bone. Either way, beans are best eaten with a piggy!

    🙂

  2. Man it is lunch time and I definitely want some of this…

    Do you happen to know if there is a major difference between beans on the stove in 40 minutes vs crockpot for 6-8 hours? Taste-wise…

    I can but typically don’t make much note of it. When I get hungry I rarely complain about the beans not being slow cooked and fully flavored by the crockpot… usually it is just *chomp* *chomp* *Swallow* – *Chomp* “Dif if fery gud!” *Chomp* *Swallow*

    Terrible, I know… Particularly since I can actually taste the difference… I just accept I don’t trust a crockpot on for 6 hours while I’m at work 🙂

    Do you watch it all day, or feel safe leaving it on while you go out?

    • The fat on the meat becomes more tender and “melts” into the sauce more when you use a crockpot, but that’s just what I’ve observed versus cooking it on a stovetop. Slowcooking defintely provides a more homogenous flavor.
      I feel fairly safe leaving my crockpot on low all day, I just wander into the kitchen to give it a stir every once in a while. That might have to do with the fact that I use my crockpot and rice cooker A LOT. Even a cheapy one from Walmart or the grocery store can be left alone for a few hours reliably.

  3. I do a pre-boil/soak on my beans to lessen the gas in them. I cover them in cold water, heat to a full boil and then turn the burner off for an hour (keep the pot covered with a lid). Once the hour is up I drain and rinse the beans and then start them to simmer for a few hours or throw them in the crock. Having had 3 boys and a girl who loves to ‘outdo’ her brothers, I found this a necessary step!

    Love the Frijoles recipe! Will do this tomorrow for supper!

  4. Pingback: 2010 in review « Inspire Fellows

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