Thursday, October 8, 2015

Beans Beans They're Good For Your Heart

I have made quite a few bean meals lately, but these have mostly been Guatemalan recipes. I made Piloyes with Chorizo a couple of months back, using some new runner beans, "Ayocote Morado", that I found from Rancho Gordo - XOXOC Project. The dish turned out most excellently, and the beans were creamy and had great bite and flavor. 

Frijoles Blancos con Chorizo
I got 4 different kinds of beans in a sampler pack when I got those, and had been itching to try another Guatemalan bean dish - this is one I had a recipe for, but had never made or eaten in the past. I had seen photos of the dish, but couldn't quite "taste" it in my mind. I wanted to make this dish so I could try it out, but also so I could put my own stamp on it, and have photos to show and use in the Guatemalan cookbook I made for two of my children. I am currently updating the book again, for my son, and trying to make as many dishes as I can, so most of the book is straight from my own experiences. 

The beans and chorizo I used
So this new dish is called Frijoles Blancos con Chorizo, or White Beans with Chorizo. In actuality, there is more pork meat than chorizo in the dish, but regardless, I did have a small package of chorizo in the freezer, waiting on this dish, as well as the pork. The pork that is called for in the original recipe is pork spine meat. This is not necessarily found in just any supermarket, so I opted for another bony pork cut: little riblets. These are narrow strips of the ribs, cut across the bones, so the bones are only about 2 inches long, maximum. There is plenty of bone end exposed, so all the bone-rich flavor is released into the stew. And the beans, of course, have also been waiting for me. This time the beans I used were "Alubia Blanca." These are smaller, similar to Navy beans in size. They made an excellent base for  this dish.

Since my tomato plants are still producing, I had plenty of tomatoes to use for the sauce that is added toward the end of cooking. The recipe calls for Roma tomatoes, and this is the kind I would normally use, but I had no Romas this time. Instead, I used some smaller round tomatoes and cut them in half and scooped out the seeds, leaving a far less watery tomato. 

Guatemalan recipes are rarely anything but complex and/or time consuming. Guatemalan women often had a maid, and the maid was the chief cook and bottle washer, so to speak. Most recipes in Guatemala call for at least two different cooking methods, and often three. One assumes that the average Guatemalan woman has the entire day to spend in the kitchen cooking. This bean recipe was no different. First the beans are set to cook with the garlic, chorizo and pork, then the potatoes are added and this is cooked down to tenderness. Separately, the tomatoes, onion and garlic are broiled or otherwise charred (either on a grill or in a dry skillet). Once they are charred, these are pureed in a blender or through a food mill. Then the resultant mixture is fried down a bit before being added to the beans. Kind of a pain to do all these steps.


 The results are spectacular. There are no two ways about it. I had never tried this dish in Guatemala, so it was a complete surprise for me. While I expected a bean dish made with pork and chorizo to be tasty, I just never imagined it would be this amazing. My husband and I really chowed on this stew last evening, so I hope that some of my readers might try this out. It is well worth the time. The tomato sauce part can easily be made ahead of time and refrigerated, or even frozen for later use, and is a delicious sauce on its own. The use of a slow cooker makes the cooking of the beans easy and simple; set it and forget it. 
This is what I did:

Frijoles Blancos con Chorizo or White Beans with Chorizo

serves 6 to 8
Frijoles Blancos con Chorizo

1 pound white beans (Navy beans, Alubia Blanca), soaked overnight
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled & sliced
2 small chorizo (about 3.25 ounces), preferably air-dried
1 pound pork riblets or pork spine meat
2 small potatoes, peeled, cubed
2 teaspoons salt

1 pound Roma tomatoes
1 large onion, peeled, cut in wedges
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 - 2 tablespoons shortening, lard or bacon grease for frying
1/2 teaspoon salt

If using a slow cooker, pour in the beans with their soaking water and add in the sliced garlic, chorizo, cut in slices, and the pork riblets. Add in the cubed potatoes and set to cook for 5 to 6 hours, or until tender. Add the 2 teaspoons of salt once the beans are already tender. 

Step one in the slow cooker
If cooking in a large pot or Dutch oven, repeat the steps above and bring the pot to boil. Reduce to a bare simmer and cover, cooking until the beans are tender, about 2 to 3 hours. Add the salt once the beans are tender.

To make the sauce, cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set the tomatoes on the sheet, cut side upwards. Add the onion wedges to the sheet and set under a preheated broiler, very close to the heat element. Watch the vegetables carefully, and have a blender container and tongs at the ready. Once the tomatoes have gotten charred and slightly blackened, remove them to the blender container. The onions will need to be turned once or twice during the broiling, to get a bit of char on different sides. Near the end of the onion cooking time, add the 3 whole garlic cloves to the pan and watch. They will turn brown, at which point they should be turned to brown on the opposite side. Remove the onions and garlic to the blender as they reach your desired doneness. Add in the fresh thyme leaves and blend the mixture to a relatively smooth paste. Season with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

cooking down the sauce: before and after
Heat a large skillet and add in the shortening, lard or bacon grease. Pour in the pureed mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring to help with evaporation. Once the mixture is cooked down it will be added to the pot of cooked beans. If using a slow cooker, make this sauce an hour ahead and pour it in to meld flavors for at least 45 minutes more. If cooking in a Dutch oven, allow the sauce to meld flavors at a simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot, as is, or with rice.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.