Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Hill o' Beans

Today, I'm sharing my secret recipe for pinto beans with you, so shhh, don't tell anyone. This is an easy, hearty recipe made even easier by that wonderful invention, the crockpot. Fair warning: I don't measure anything, I don't usually write things down, and the recipe will vary according to what I have in the pantry and what I feel like adding to it. What follows is what went into this pot of beans. You can do this in a pot on the stove, of course, but if you do, it needs tending.

Ingredients for a LARGE crockpot
Dry pinto beans (I'm guessing I had at least 3 cups)
3 bay leaves
1 32 oz. box of fat free chicken broth
3 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes with jalapeños (or green chiles)
1 lb. ground turkey
1 12 oz. tube Jimmy Dean reduced fat sausage
1 large onion, chopped
LOTS of minced garlic (I used maybe 4-5 heaping T, but to taste)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Ground cumin (maybe a little less than a T)
Powdered chicken bullion (heaping T or a bit more) - I use Orrington Farms Chicken Flavored Soup Base and Food Seasoning
Ground chipotle chile (caution! use sparingly! 1/4 t is lovely, more only if your mouth is lined with asbestos) - Spice Island brand makes it

Soak the beans overnight or at least a few hours. Drain and place in crockpot with bay leaves, chicken broth, and bullion. I had a lot of beans so I had to add a little water, but only because I didn't have any more chicken broth. Turn on high for about 2 hours -- the beans will NOT be tender at this point. Remove the bay leaves.

In a deep skillet (I use a wok), brown the meat, onions and garlic. Add cumin and ground chipotle. Drain the fat.

Add meat mixture and tomatoes (don't drain them) to beans and stir well. Continue cooking on high until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. When tender, reduce heat to low (or mine also has a setting called "keep warm"). Chop cilantro and stir in. You can also use more chopped cilantro as a garnish for individual bowls, as well as shredded cheese. Serve with fresh flour tortillas, corn chips or warm cornbread.

Here's your bowl. Hope you brought a spoon.
Extra super special slap-your-granny-good treat: Fried Burritos, my son's favorite thing. I usually make these when we're getting down toward the end of the pot. You will need: burrito size flour tortillas (the big ones), reduced fat Velveeta, and a light cooking oil (I use Smart Balance).

Drain the beans in a colander. By this time the broth will have thickened, so let them sit in the colander for awhile so they are as dry as possible. Slice the Velveeta about 1/4" thick or thicker, then cut each slice into 3 strips. You will need about 2 heaping T of beans and 2 strips of cheese for each burrito. If you know your way around tortillas, this next part is more info than you need, but I know a lot of people don't, so here goes. Take the tortillas out of the bag, lay them on the bag, then on the carousel in the microwave. Cover them with a plate or bowl, waxed paper or even a moist paper towel. Nuke for 20-25 seconds, flip the stack and nuke again for the same amount of time. They don't need to be hot, just warm and pliable, or they will crack -- not good.*

Keeping close to the center of the tortilla, place your beans in a sort of long, narrow mound horizontally. Keep away from the edges. Lay the cheese strips overlapping end to end on top of the mound. Take the tortilla by the edge facing you and gently fold it up and away, a little more than halfway up. You can use this flap to slightly mush the beans down and make it easier to fold. They will be slightly flattened, not fat and round -- it shouldn't look like a big egg roll. Now fold the sides in toward the center - the side flaps will be maybe 1 1/2-2". With your fingers holding those folds in place, flip the entire burrito away from you. It should be a neat little rectangular packet, with all the flaps down. Gently stack your burritos flap down on a plate.

Cover the bottom of a shallow skillet/sauté pan with oil. Heat on medium to medium high heat. Lay burritos flap down in the oil. Use a spatter screen if you have one. Watch them closely until you see how quickly the bottom browns. Ideally, you want them to cook for about 2 minutes or so per side, so they get hot enough all the way thru to melt the cheese. Gauge your heat accordingly.
They should be a deep golden brown, although the darker they are, the crunchier the outside, which is how we like them. Drain on paper towels. They should be crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Serve with salsa, fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, or any combination thereof.

*If the tortillas crack, or if stuff oozes out of the flaps, they are going to spatter and pop and make a big mess on your stove. And that oil is HOT, so handle with care.



LatigoLiz said...

Mmmmm. I be writin’ this one down (or printing it) and putting some in the pot for tomorrow. Make a batch of mini-corn muffins to go with it probably. It’s been feeling like fall lately, so this should go over well with the family, and I don't have to “cook” it either!


LatigoLiz said...

Oh, and a quick substitute for dry beans is canned beans. I use them and rinse well to reduce the salt (I hate too much salt so tweak recipes a ton to remove it). But leave the liquid in if you want a “thickener.” Thanks go to Rachael Ray for that one little tip.

Leah Fry said...

You absolutely can use canned beans. I've done it in a pinch, but I do recommend starting from scratch with the dry ones because of the better texture and the fact that all that cooking melds those flavors together beautifully. If you use canned beans, use LOW heat in the crockpot and don't cook as long -- there's no need since everything is cooked already. BUT, let them sit for a day so the flavors can blend.

BTW, despite the tomatoes and jalapenos and the ground chipotle, the beans are delicately spicy, but not burn-your-face-off hot. Be careful with the chipotle, though.

Although not spicy, unless your buckaroo is an adventurous type, this is usually a bit too much flavor for kids. Too much going on for their simple little palates, I guess.

Chelsi said...

I want a spoon! Yum! I love the way Paula Dean hold a fork full to the that nice bowl full you put up for us. I'd love some melted sharp cheddar cheese on that and a little (or maybe big) spoonful of sour cream....then I wonder why I struggle with my weight! lol I wrote about my addiction to "food porn" a while ago.

Leah Fry said...

Trust me: the fried burritos using the leftover beans are to die for. It's all well worth the effort.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Ok...I just copied down your recipe. My family doesn't like beans typically...but I think it's because mine aren't as flavorful as the way your recipe makes them. I'll have to try these soon. Hubby lost his job 3 weeks ago and times are tough.....and even if we have to eat beans...why should they taste nasty?

Thanks again,

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