One of my “Not-a-New-Year’s-Resolution” Resolutions has been to eat—and cook—more beans.
To that end, I’ve been stocking up on bags of dry beans when they go on sale and cooking a big pot of them every week or so.
After all, what’s not to love about beans?
They’re cheap, they’re filling, and they go with just about anything.
Put them in a soup. Put them in a salad. Mash them up and spread them on a sandwich. Put them in a tortilla with last night’s leftovers. Eat them with eggs, or rice, or cheese or tomatoes.
Oh, the versatile bean!
There is, however, the Bean Catch-22: they taste better if you make them yourself, but if you make them yourself, well, I hope you didn’t have plans that day.
Which is why I am a huge fan of my pressure-cooker.
Since I am notoriously terrible at planning ahead, any recipe that uses the phrase ‘overnight’ immediately gets filed away into the ‘Do Not Make File,’ which exists only in my brain yet still has a habit of getting misplaced.
And so I rarely cooked dried beans, requiring as they did an overnight soak, followed by 2-3 hours of cooking time. Because dudes, that is a lot of standing-over-the-stove-time.
It was a great sadness.
Enter the ‘$15 Early-Bird Sale Pressure Cooker,’ and beans are back in my life.
As simple as beans seem to cook (beans, water, salt), it was still hard for me to make them as perfect as I wanted—creamy and tender but not falling-apart, flavorful but not overly salty, soupy but not watery.
Should I add a bay leaf? Garlic? Broth? Cumin? How much salt? And when do I add it?
I regret to say that I made quite a few pots of not-perfect beans—ones that were too al dente, or that were flavorless in spite of swimming in a salty, garlicky broth.
I’m happy to say I’ve discovered the secret to perfect pressure-cooked beans, and that it is not at all complicated or time consuming.
It involves olive oil, onion, and—and!—cooking them twice.
This recipe comes from Cocina de La Familia. I think it’s safe to say that this is the only way I will be cooking black and pinto beans for a long, long time.
They are fabulous on their own as a side, or heaped over rice, or folded into a tortilla. The chunks of onion that cook with the beans become so fall-apart tender that they literally melt into the beans, and this is a wonderful, wonderful thing.Soupy Mexican Pot Beans Recipe adapted from Cocina de La Familia 1 pound dried beans (black, pinto, or pink)—about 3 cups 1 white or yellow onion, cut in half 2 Tablespoons olive oil (or bacon drippings or lard if you’re into that) 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt, more or less to taste 2 bay leaves (or sprigs of epazote, if you have it) 3 cloves garlic, minced ½ cup crumbled queso fresco or feta, optional
Sort through the beans, removing any stones or funky-looking ones. Quick-soak them, if desired, by covering them with water 1-2 inches above the beans and heating them to boiling. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit 15-20 minutes or longer if you get distracted. Drain the beans, return them to the pot, and add fresh cold water about 1 inch above the beans.
Cut half of the onion into large chunks and add it to the beans with the bay leaves and 1 Tablespoon oil or lard. Cover and cook. If using the pressure cooker, cook for 20 minutes. If cooking over the stove, simmer for about an hour, adding boiling water as needed if the liquid isn’t covering the beans.
Meanwhile, heat the other Tablespoon of oil/lard in a saucepan over medium heat. Dice the remaining half of the onion and add it to the pan with the minced garlic. Cook 3-5 minutes or until the onion is softened but making sure not to burn the garlic.
After the beans have cooked (20 minutes pressure cooker; 1 hour stove) add the salt and sautéed onion and garlic. Continue simmering with the lid removed until tender and the bean liquid has reached the desired consistency—about 15 minutes if you used the pressure cooker or 30-45 if you used a regular pot.
Remove bay leaves and serve hot, garnished with the crumbled cheese, if desired.