In this swinging pendulum of spring weather it’s kinda nice to have a pot of beans every once in a while. We don’t eat beans as often as I’d like. My kids detest them (a personal flaw I try to overlook) so more often than not, Armando and I will just open up a can and doctor it with some sautéed onion and garlic and cumin.
Every now and again I like to commit to a big pot which we can then have for lunches, breakfasts, and snacks all week. I tend to get very hungry around 10 am and a bowlful of beans just hits the spot. Especially if it’s rainy or surprisingly cold or (dare I say it), snowing in the middle of May.
Frijoles Borrachos, or Drunken Beans, fall in that multitudinous category of Mexican bean soups and stews made with the humble but very satisfying pinto bean. They are similar to Frijoles Charros or Cowboy Beans but some of the cooking liquid is replaced with beer, giving them a almost sweet, yeasty flavor. Bacon is also crucial, although some people use chorizo or both.
They are excellent just like this, spooned into bowls with some of the broth and sprinkled with a handful of fresh herbs but they can also be turned into the best refried beans on the planet. Heat some oil in a frying pan (or lard or bacon grease) and add a ladleful of beans with a little of the broth. Bring to a boil then start mashing away with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon until they are creamy.
An old-wives tale or not, I do not salt my beans before they are fully cooked. One day, when I have endless time on my hands, I might try this two-part salting method which claims to cook beans quicker (??) but in the meantime if I am anything it’s stubborn and I’ve thrown away too many pots of hard beans to mess around. After the beans are tender add a tablespoon of kosher salt and then taste. You might need to add 1 or even 2 more but remember the beans will get saltier once reheated so err on the side of caution.
Meaty pinto beans cooked with beer, bacon, chiles, and spices all in the slow cooker. Gluten-free!
- 1 pound dry pinto beans
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
- 6 cups water
- 8 ounces bacon
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 2 jalapeños, stemmed and chopped (seeded, for a less spicy version)
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground chile powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- Rinse beans and pick through, removing any rocks. Place beans in the slow cooker. Add beer and water, cover and turn slow cooker on to high if you'd like them done in 4 hours or low if you'd like them done in 8.
- Meanwhile, cook bacon over medium heat in a large frying pan until browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
- In the frying pan with the bacon grease, add onions and cook over medium heat until they are soft, about 8 minutes. Add jalapeños and cook another 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chile powder, coriander, oregano, and bay leaves and cook, stirring for a minute more.
- Transfer onion mixture to slow cooker. Chop bacon and add to slow cooker. Cover and continue cooking until beans are tender, about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
- Add about 1 tablespoon of salt, taste and add more to your liking. Sprinkle with cilantro and scallions and serve.