March 15, 2009

holy moly hot beans

You know how I like to tinker with recipes? Blatantly ignore the well-tested instructions heeded by countless others because I think my take on things might add a nice little punch? Well, in this case, it was more like being run over by a semi than landing a "nice little punch" on the tastebuds. 

Hailing from this great state, it's hard not to have an affinity for pinto beans, any style. I grew up eating them Nan Byfield style, simmered on the stove with saltpork and served with hot sweet cornbread and--this is the weird part--topped with spoonfuls of dill relish. Since I introduced Ryan to our family bean tradition, he's caught on and spread the love.

But he loves borracho beans; they're a souped-up version of pintos that don't get the relish treatment. We're still on the quest to replicate a restaurant version. The special thing about borracho beans is that they involve cilantro (R's favorite herb), chiptole peppers in adobo sauce (I'm trying to keep them stocked in the pantry), and a good Mexican beer (also something we'd like to keep stocked, if you get my drift!). This goes down in my books as the longest recipe ever, but two-thirds of that time spent was unattended. I soaked some organic pinto beans, bought for pennies on the dollar from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, overnight. Once I rinsed and drained them, I followed, in only the loosest sense of the word, fellow food blogger Homesick Texan's advice on making a pot of beans from start to finish.  

Well, turns out I should have followed it more closely. Should've thrown intuition out the window and held on dearly to caution. There were a couple of things I did differently, but only one of my subs took me from "good ole pot of Saturday beans" to "the pot that made me sob."

First sub: instead of the salt pork she calls for in her basic pinto bean recipe, I dumped in bacon. Not too bad--it cooked just fine and my first taste test yielded a salty, savory, supple bean. Since I didn't have commercial pickled jalapenos on hand--but I did have my mother's, which are known for being extra spicy--I poured in 1/4 cup of the juice and, for posterity's sake, a spoonful of the jalapenos. Good measure, anyone? This added a bit of a kick, but wasn't the culprit.

I probably also added a couple too many chipotle peppers in adobo, but those are mild and likely were not the cause of my tears.

No, no, it was definitely the serrano peppers I subbed for the fresh jalapenos in the "a la charra" section of the recipe. Not three serranos, just two...See those innocuous little slices, seeds and all, nestled gently in the valley between mountains of chipotles and cilantro? I don't believe that's a radon glow they're emitting. They packed so powerful a punch that I could feel spicy tears welling up as I cooked. I let the beans simmer on the stove for a few hours while we waited on a friend to show up. Then came the fateful ladling of the beans into bowls, and the spice-induced cursing I heard from Ryan in the other room. At first I thought it was a good "damn"--but I soon realized that this pot of pintos had it out for the acid-reflux afflicted digestive status of our company. Yes, we had company over for this explosion. Personally, since I tend to be a spice fiend, I enjoyed the tongue-slapping kick from the serranos. 

What about the chipotle skillet cornbread (not pictured because I am simply too embarrassed), you ask? Well, I didn't preheat the skillet correctly, and the cornbread was, for lack of a better explanation, a complete inedible flop that could not be salvaged.

Thankfully I had my margarita recipe to fall back on. Next time it's bean day, I'll be cutting back on the peppers--because really, I'm not a sadist...and nobody really needs that much capsaicin.