The Great Pinto Bean

I don’t expect that too many people will like, let alone, make this recipe.  But I am head over heals for this, and if you like Mexican-  real Mexican, or beans, you will love this too.  This is the kind of food chefs eat at home, when they’re not making fancy purees and sauces for discerning clientele.  I find it to be delicious, cheap, healthy and versatile.  Pinto beans are of course a staple in Mexican cuisine and in America they’re most known for their role in refried beans.  And when cooked properly, that’s the flavor they assume:  Savory, fulfilling, and delicious.

Beans are of course an interesting culinary ingredient.  Why not buy canned beans and save yourself a moderate amount of work?  Why put yourself through the effort of making beans anyway?  The answer, in my opinion, is simple:  Control the flavor and control the salt.  This recipe brings out immense flavor without the salt.  If you like beans, you will like this.  If not, skip this recipe, move on, and continue your search until you find what you’re looking for.

If you choose to read on, I’d like to mention a couple things about the actual production.  First, I don’t soak the beans overnight.  Pinto beans will cook to completely tender in a few hours of relatively unsupervised cooking, and soaking them overnight doesn’t really save you any time.  Second, producing a ‘stock’ as you cook the beans is critically important.  This is base of the flavor without the salt.  Add a couple of chicken legs or wings, half an onion and a piece of bacon to the beans at the very beginning.  Start building your flavors early without sodium.  And third, and this is a personal touch, I like to puree about 1/3 of the cooked beans with some of its own cooking liquid, and add it back to the rest of the beans.  As it finishes cooking, it thickens the beans, resulting in that wonderful creamy texture and boosts the flavor.  Delicious.  A perfect side dish for any Mexican night or bbq meal.

Creamy Pinto Beans

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cook time:  4 1/2 hours
Yield:  4 portions

Ingredients:

1 cup dry pinto beans
2 chicken wings or 1 chicken leg (skinless)
1 piece smoked bacon
kosher salt
ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp franks or tapatio hot sauce
1/2 yellow onion

Method:

Place the beans, half onion, bacon and chicken in a large sauce pot.  Fill the pot almost completely with cold water.  Bring to a simmer and turn heat to low.  Simmer very slowly for about 3 1/2 hours, or until completely tender.  Remove the chicken and discard.  Place the bacon, onion, about 1/3 of the beans and about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in a blender.  Blender until very smooth.  Add the puree back into the pot, and continue to simmer.  Add the hot sauce.  Simmer until very thick, about 1 hour.  Season with cumin, salt and pepper (there is no specific amount of salt to add).  Add salt until it tastes good, but be careful not to over salt.  We add the salt at the end because the cooking process is a continual reduction; it’s very easy to over salt if you add salt any time other than the very end.

Serve right away as a side to your favorite Mexican or bbq dishes.

Enjoy.

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