Friday, July 9, 2010

A Small Variation on the Méndez Family Frijoles Recipe

The traditional Méndez family recipe for frijoles, practically a staple dish in their household, is based on a recipe given by an actual chuckwagon cook who cooked on trail drives in the late 1800s. It was cited in an old edition of The El Paso County Historical Association Journal, if we remember correctly. It uses standard pinto beans, and the spices employed, not counting the peppers, are enough to perk up the most jaded palate.

Which can be a problem, if the frijoles are to be served to folks who are used to the rather blah, plain Jane frijoles commonly served by barbecue places. We had our own family reunion recently, a bit smaller than the Méndez family had in Distant Cousin: Regeneration, and barbecue and beans were among the dishes on the menu. We decided the safest course was to dial the spices back a little, leaving just enough to suggest the the colorful taste of the full recipe yet still make them stand out from the norm.

So we used the same basic recipe given here, but we halved the amount of oregano and used the barest dash, perhaps a quarter tablespoon, of comino, while keeping the same amount of garlic. And to be on the safe side, we omitted the jalapeños altogether. Instead of salt pork we used diced bacon. Everything is better with bacon. We made two pots with four cups of pinto beans per pot, and put half the bacon in each pot. We neglected to note the weight of the package, but you can be sure it was not an honest pound. More likely it was 14 ounces, or even 12.

The beans were NOT greasy. They were savory and the liquid was heavenly. The beans got many compliments. There remains, in the refrigerator, perhaps one cup of beans in two cups of liquid, and very little grease has congealed on top. They are not quite a low-fat food, but neither are they a high-fat food. One day soon, the leftovers will be made into a truly excellent soup, the making of which is also described in Distant Cousin: Regeneration.

Those who feel the original recipe might be a little too adventurous for their families might consider this slightly less spicy variation. Beans are cheap and good for you!


lonestar said...

Have you ever used Anasazi beans? We really like the flavor.

Al said...

No, I've not tried Anasazi beans, though I've heard of them. They look like slightly smaller pinto beans, do they not? I'll look for them next time we go to the big city for provisions. Good idea! Thanks!

I have heard that Ana has been trying the smaller black beans, popular in South America, or so I hear. I'll check those out too, and maybe get a recipe from her. Stay tuned!