what’s for dinner

Lately, the form my home-making (not to get all 50’s on it) has been taking has been not so much painting and organizing as laundry and cooking. But hey, cooking is still creative! Or at least, it can be. Tonight, I got done with my work a little early and irrationally decided to make a feast. (This was irrational because 1. it’s Wednesday and 2. we went out for Harvest Hell last night, which was wild!)

It’s Tex-Mex for dinner tonight! I can’t claim to know anything about authentic Mexican food, but I know that I love cooking with Homesick Texan recipes. My favorite phase of cooking is when you have made a recipe so many times that you know what you can get away with based on ingredients in your house. I always get frustrated when I read recipe reviews that complain about the recipe only to reveal they lacked some of the ingredients, and that is certainly not what I’m up to here. (I remember reading once, or maybe seeing?, on or in America’s Test Kitchen, about a reviewer complaining about a chicken recipe… only to reveal he had made it with shrimp!) But, here is my absolute favorite recipes of hers (and I can guess it’s only my favorite because I have not yet made enough of her recipes!) and what I can get away with.

OK, so the original recipe can be found here. It is great as-is. There is absolutely no need to change anything about it. I have served it to countless friends and I think I may now go by the unfortunate nickname of “bean lady.” Not really. But maybe.

Here is how I made it tonight (which is completely vegetarian, btw, and probably gluten-free, although I am loathe to admit it):


Peppery pinto beans withOUT sausage

2 cups dried pinto beans (I don’t have a scale, so while the original recipe spoke of 1 pound, I always guess 2 cups is about right)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 big shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6-7 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Changes to this I have made in the past that were delicious: the kielbasa the original recipe called for; bacon, which I remove after frying, chop, and add at the last minute so it doesn’t become all limp; bacon grease instead of olive oil; the jalapeños the recipe calls for are excellent, but I forgot to get them at the store. too bad so sad.)

Soak the beans overnight or for at least 8 hours. Today, I soaked them for eight hours.

Heat oil in a heavy, large pot (I use a dutch oven). Add to the pot the shallot and jalapeños and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Pour in a little of the water (a hefty splash) and deglaze the pot (this is good to do even with the vegetarian version, because I find my garlic often sticks!)

Put the drained, soaked beans into the pot and cover the beans with 1 inch of water, approximately 4 more cups. Stir in the spices, and bring to a boil. (Guys, I never TOUCH the spice mixture other than the fact that I have never once had cilantro in the house when making these. Everything else is sacred. I am convinced this is where the magic lies.) Once it boils, turn down the heat, partially cover, and simmer until the beans are done. This has usually taken me about 2 hours, but I can imagine it taking way longer if your beans were old. Stir every once in a while, and if the water is all gone and the beans are still hard, add some more. Duh. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 servings

We have had these beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are good alone or as part of a scramble, on a taco, or with rice. Seriously, make a pot. The hands-on effort is minimal and the reward is so tasty.

PS. I also made carnitas tonight. See, it’s a feast!


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