Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Southern Mexican black beans: Giving a sexy makeover to a humble legume



After living part-time in Oaxaca for the last few years, I still can’t get enough of the black beans here. They’re sublime. Finally, after asking around, I learned they key is avocado leaves! They make your boring run-of-the mill black beans into something amazing. It’s like those daytime shows when they give some frumpy dude in sweats a makeover and you realize with some new clothes and a decent haircut, he’s a real ladykiller. That’s the same with these beans. Just a few simple changes to your old, boring beans will make an amazing, delicious, complex black bean wonder. If only the makeover guy knew this recipe, he could have just picked up all the ladies without even having to ditch his sweats and dumpy haircut. Oh well.

Note that you can get epazote and dried avocado leaves at most Mexican grocers and maybe some specialty grocers. You can also order them on Amazon.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail (after the beans are cooked)

Bean base:
2 pounds of black beans
1 small bunch fresh epazote or a scant handful of dried
1 onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, unpeeled and whole
Salt

For each batch batch of sexy makeover beans:
3 dried chilies (I like Pasilla or Guajillo)
7 dried avocado leaves
1-2 cups of the beans from the bean base
1 TBSP neutral cooking oil, like canola

Soak the beans overnight. Then rinse well and put in a Dutch oven with at least a couple quarts of water and bring to boil. Stir occasionally and add more water, as needed. Cook until soft, usually a few hours. But when they’re about 40 minutes from that point, stir in epazote onion, and garlic. Salt to taste. When beans are finished, fish out and discard the garlic head and epazote (if you used fresh).

Once your beans are done, toast the chilies and avocado leaves in a dry frying pan over medium high heat for a few minutes until they become highly aromatic and maybe a tad charred.

Transfer 1-2 cups of the beans plus the toasted chilies and avocado leaves to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.

Now take a small frying pan and heat the oil.  Transfer the contents of the the blender to the pan and sautee the pureed beans until they become “dry” to the point they clump together a little bit and are no longer runny (like in the photo above).

You will have a fair amount of leftover bean base. You can make additional batches of sexy makeover beans by repeating the process with the peppers and avocado leaves or use the beans for other purposes.

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