I’m now experimenting with the local pintos, grown by Stalford Seed Farms in Tangent, OR, as part of their bean trials to help relocalize our food network in the Willamette Valley by converting grass seed crops to beans and grains. See the smiley face? That’s what they look like. The flavor of the beans are great. They come in quite dirty, and the sizes are not as uniform as they would be in a facility with a larger (or more fastidious) processing method, but I don’t mind the rustic feel.
The perfect — and I’m resisting saying ONLY — pinto bean recipe is a big, juicy, bacony, spicy, tequila-laced pot of simple Mexican beans. This recipe, adapted from one in Rick Bayless’ cookbook Mexican Kitchen, is so good you’ll want to pick up the pot and drink it. It outshines most chicken preparations in burritos and tacos, and makes a simple, delicious partner to rice.
The recipe works well with any dried pinto-type bean, or you could substitute the black beans grown in Veneta, available at several local markets. But if you can, try it with nutty, gorgeous speckled anasazi beans from New Mexico, one of the most popular heirloom varieties. Anasazis cook up pink, and they contain only a fraction of the substance responsible for making beans unpopular at parties. I’ve seen anasazis in town at both Sundance and Market of Choice. The picture at the top of this post is how the anasazis look when cooked (indeed, a bit overcooked).
If you are using this year’s crop of dried beans or an heirloom variety, you will not need to pre-soak the beans for very long or at all — your call. I soaked my rather fresh Rancho Gordo anasazi beans for one hour, and they were already swollen and splitting.
Drunken Beans with Bacon and Cilantro
Adapted from Rick Bayless’ “Frijoles Borrachos”
- 8 thick slices raw bacon
- 2 cups dry Anasazi beans (see introductory note)
- 1 medium white onion, chopped coarsely
- 1 jalapeño, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tequila
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- salt to taste (start with 1 teaspoon)
Pick through beans for debris and rocks and rinse well. If you are using supermarket beans, pre-soak the beans in cold water overnight. If your beans are more fresh, soak until there is no dry core remaining in the center of the bean when you cut it in half.
Place beans in a 4-quart or larger pot. Add water to cover beans by at least two inches. Add half (four slices) of raw bacon and a quarter of the onions. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, cooking beans partially covered until tender, anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on the freshness of your beans.
Stir the beans occasionally and check that the liquid keeps the beans covered by about an inch. Add more water if necessary.
As the beans are cooking, fry the remaining four slices of bacon in a skillet until crisp. Crumble the bacon in a small bowl. Fry the remaining onion and jalapeño in the bacon grease until golden brown. Set onion mixture aside in another bowl.
When the beans are almost soft, add the onion mixture to the beans. Salt to taste after the flavors have settled, about 10 minutes, then cook for 20 more minutes to blend the flavors. Try to boil down the liquid at this point, so it barely covers the beans, on medium high heat.
Just before serving, add the crumbled bacon, tequila, and cilantro.
Makes about 6 cups of beans. Beans can be frozen before the last step.