February 21, 2007

Beans in Honor

To commemorate my dad’s passing I’m posting one of his favorite recipes: Pinto beans and corn bread. This is also one of my favorite meals. I always assumed that my mom loved them, too, since she made them pretty regularly during my entire childhood. However, she’s just told me that she despises them, that she only made them because they were the one’s my dad liked! She had grown up with Great Northern beans, and reverted to those upon her divorce. Wow. I don’t remember ever having white beans at home. As a matter of fact, I recall quite clearly the feeling of culinary superiority that overcame me every time I was at a friend’s house and saw the shocking paleness of the beans they were forced to choke down – without any green relish! Maybe even without cornbread (can that be true?). This is so obviously a pre-second wave feminism story! These days, surely, one would make both types of beans. I mean, not at the same time. But alternate them. White, pinto; north, south; Yankee, rebel. But to give up one’s beans? Hardly. Ah, the sacrifices our poor mothers made. Anyway, she said that one night, when she and my dad were dating, he said to her, “My mom’s making cornbread and beans. Do you want to come over and eat?” Looking forward, of course, to the Great Northerns she said, “Sure.” Then, in the kitchen with Nonie she lifted the lid on the pot and, well, she says that Nonie told her she’d never forget the look on my mom's face when she saw the brown beans. “I’d never seen beans that color before!” she told me. So here they are. Beans of a different color.

The Lime Infused Cornbread is yummy, but feel free to use any cornbread you like. A cheesy one with hot peppers works fabulously.

Beans in Honor

A large, heavy pan, like a Dutch oven
A bag of pinto beans
1 big onion
Two bay leaves
(a ham hock)
(pinch of cayenne pepper)
3 TBS Olive oil
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Water (see package, but generally to cover plus two inches or so)

Serve with:
Green Tomato Relish (or pickle relish, if you must; chutney works nicely, too)
Hot Sauce
Lime Infused Cornbread (recipe follows)

1. Prepare the beans according to package directions. (Don’t add the salt until the end, when you’re adding the onions, or the beans could get tough.) If you’re using the ham hock add it when you turn the heat down after the boil.

2. Add the bay leaves, cayenne and black pepper, if you’re using that.

3. An hour before the beans are ready you may prepare the corn bread (below), so that it will come out of the oven when the beans are ready.

4. When the beans are almost done, sauté the onion in the olive oil. Add half the salt to the onions, half to the bean pot. Cook for 20 minutes or so.

5. To serve, put a piece of cornbread in a bowl and ladle beans over it. Top with the relish or chutney and a few dashes of hot sauce.

Lime Infused Cornbread

Lime and pepper work so well in cornbread, it’s amazing. I stumbled upon this combo by accident. I'd prepared the lime-infused yogurt to serve with a soup, then forgot to top the soup when I served it. A couple of days later, making cornbread, I tossed the forgotten yogurt into the batter in place of part of the liquid. Then, mysteriously, I added some fresh ground black and some white pepper. Wow. It turned out great!

1 box of cornbread mix (or your favorite basic recipe)
1 can corn, drained, liquid saved
2 TBLS fresh lime juice
Zest from 1 lime
½ cup yogurt*
2 eggs (even if the box calls for 1)
White and Black Peppers
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven according to box directions.

2. Zest and juice the lime and add both to the yogurt*. Refrigerate the yogurt over night to infuse.

3. Prepare the cornbread according to package directions, with the following exceptions:

4. Use TWO EGGS if it calls for only ONE.

5. Add the drained can of corn.

6. Replace the liquid called for on the box with the yogurt, and enough of the drained and saved corn juice to make up the called for volume plus 1/8 cup.

7. Heat the oil in an iron skillet over high heat for a moment, until it is very hot but NOT smoking.

8. Pour a teaspoon of the hot oil into the cornbread batter, then give it a quick (almost perfunctory) stir.

9. Pour the batter into the hot pan and quickly put the pan in the oven.

10. Bake according to package directions, more or less, but definitely until the thin-object-comes-out-clean-when-inserted-in-the-center rule takes hold.

11. Let cool for 15 minutes or so, then invert onto a platter and serve.

* I use a homemade yogurt I make from goat milk. It’s fairly runny. Use your favorite yogurt, but if you can get hold of some European style (especially Greek), try using that.

Note: The hot skillet method, as we all know, makes a very nice crustiness on the bottom and sides of the cornbread. I suppose we all also know that the less stirring of the cornbread, the better -- stir it just enough to get the job done, no more.

Submitted by Margaret Howard

No comments: