Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Charro Beans

This may look like a humble bowl of beans, but let me tell you, this is probably one of my best recipes ever. If you are a Memphian, you have probably been to Las Delicias. This recipe was inspired by the Charro Beans on their menu. And, if I do say so myself, they are pretty damn good.

This may be a weird thing to say, but I am a huge bean fan. Beans are the best. They are so cheap, easy, and good for you. Now, I know most people buy beans in a can, but you really should try your hand at dried beans. They are more of a hassle than canned beans, but they are also much cheaper and healthier, since they have no added salt. They also hold up better over time, which means you can cook them longer to achieve a deeper flavor. You do need to plan on about three hours for the entire process: one hour to quick soak and usually about 2 to cook. You can soak them over night, but you need to cook them first thing the next morning or else they will sour. Trust me, this has happened to me, and it is super gross. So, I prefer to quick soak. But making a dish like this is no big deal for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

This dish gets its flavor from multiple layers of cooking. It is a bit involved, but worth it. I make my own stock (of course). While I cook my beans, I braise chicken in salsa and beer. Then I cook my chorizo and onions in the beer-y, salsa-y, chicken-y goodness that is left behind and add all that to the beans. I don't add the chicken to the beans (although you certainly could), but it really makes the flavor even better. And I find I can always use a little cooked chicken. Use it to make some quesadillas to go with the charro beans.

You will need some dried peppers for this recipe. You can cut corners with the beans, or with cooking the chicken in the salsa and beer, but don't cut corners on the dried peppers. You can find them in most grocery stores in the Mexican section, and they are usually very cheap. Or, head to a local Mexican grocery. You'll find lots of goodies there. And if you are like me, you probably eat Mexican food pretty much every day, so it will be worth the trip. (I recently read that salsa had replaced ketchup as the #1 condiment used in America. I don't remember the last time I put ketchup on something, but I use salsa all the time).

Charro Beans
Ingredients:
1 bag dried pinto beans
1 bag dried red kidney beans
2-4 cups chicken stock (more stock equals more flavor)
2-4 dried peppers (I used Guajillo and Chili de Arbol)
1 jalepeno
Raw chicken
1 jar salsa (I always buy hot salsa, but feel free to buy mild)
1 beer (a Mexican beer would be best, but use whatever's in the fridge. Which in my case, was a Natural Light. Yeah, I'm classy like that)
1 pound raw pork chorizo
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Cumin
Chili Powder
Salt and pepper

Quick soak beans according to the package.  Rinse beans and place in a large pot with about 8 cups of liquid.  I used about half water and half stock.  Cut your jalepeno in half and throw in the pot.  Add your dried peppers.  Cook on low heat for 2 to 3 hours until beans are soft.
Once your beans are simmering away, you can start your chicken. I used two legs and thighs, but you can use whatever you prefer or happen to have around.  This is just for flavor.  Sear both sides of your chicken on high heat for about three minutes per side.  Lower heat and add one beer and a jar of salsa.  The liquid needs to cover chicken about 3/4 of the way, so adjust accordingly.  Let this simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  You can cover the pan to speed up the cooking time.  
Once the chicken is cooked through, remove and save for another use. Add chorizo, onion, and garlic to the salsa, beer, chicken goo left in the pan and cook until the chorizo is cooked through, about ten minutes.
Add this mixture to your beans.  Now, you will notice I don't drain the chorizo.  Hmmmm......how can I put this?  Fat=flavor.  If you want to cook the chorizo in a separate pan and drain the fat, then by all means, go for it. I am definitely pro healthy eating. But I think the best part about chorizo is how fatty it is. I've drained chorizo before, and I find you lose a lot of the spice when you do that. It's not something you eat often, and I don't eat much meat at all, so I don't worry about a little fat.  Totally up to you.

If the beans seem dry, add a bit more water or stock.  Add salt, pepper, cumin, and chili pepper to taste.  Now this is a lot of beans, so don't skimp on the salt. I used close to 3 tablespoons. Continue to cook your beans until they are soft.
This all comes together to create on incredible bowl of comforting, bean-y, warm goodness.  Fry up some cheese quesadillas and you're good to go.  Or top with some tortilla chips.  Or add a scoop of rice.  Or serve over eggs.  Or over a baked potato.  Or....  Ok, you get the idea.

1 comment:

  1. Just finished eating my charro beans over eggs for lunch. Delish! And over rice- yummers!! And with quesadillas- magnifico!

    Fabulous recipe - and I did cut some corners. Not going to next time.

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