A Visit With My Aunt Hilda

I will never forget the time my aunt Hilda had cooked a meal for my family. She sat with me and we talked about life, food, and family. If I could describe her, she always seemed proper to me; giving her all in whatever she did. She loved her husband and children immensely, and had a refreshing sense of humor. My aunt Hilda is no longer with us, she passed away a few years ago, so I hold these memories dear.

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My aunt Hilda with my firstborn
May, 2010

That night she cooked Beef Brisket, Frijoles Charros, Mexican Rice, and Texas-style Potato Salad. I was eating spoonfuls of Frijoles Charros one after the other; I felt them go straight down to my soul. It was pure comfort. I asked for the recipe and she said, “With these specific ingredients, you get a handful of this, a pinch of that, and its all done.”. I didn’t get to write down the recipe and it was a good time after that I finally prepared them. I was pregnant with my first daughter and was craving them. Desperate for satisfaction, I went in the kitchen and guessed the recipe. They had to come out exactly right. Pregnant taste buds are particularly hard to please. HA! The first taste I took, I almost cried. I ate them until my heart was content.

Since then I have been preparing my version of Frijoles Charros as a side for my Tex-Mex Beef Tacos. I’ve also had them as an appetizer, or alone as a meal. They are a favorite! The first time I cooked them for any one other than my husband, it was for a group of friends from Tulsa, OK. Our visit was coming to an end therefore I wanted to cook for the family that hosted us as a “thank you”. While I was cooking, I found out that friends were coming and then their friends’ friends were coming and well it was a party!

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Frijoles Charros, also known as cowboy beans, are a traditional Mexican dish. This dish gets its name from the Mexican cowboys, charros, who would cook their beans over an open fire. Frijoles Charros are pinto beans with a soup consistency cooked in various ways with these few ingredients: onion, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeños, and with either ham, chorizo, or bacon. I prefer to use bacon.
The ingredients are not difficult; it requires patience and much love.

So here I present my version:

Frijoles Charros (Cowboy Beans)

How to Cook the Pinto Beans:

  • 2 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Note: 2 cups dried pinto beans make 6 cups cooked beans.

In a dutch oven or stock pot bring water to rapid boil. Add rinsed beans and olive oil. Season with salt. Give it a stir; allowing the oil and salt to incorporate. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 2 hours or until beans are tender. Keep an eye on the water during the whole process. Add more if necessary; this dish has a soupy consistency.

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How to Cook the Vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • Half bunch cilantro, rough chopped
  • 2 slices of bacon, rough chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Optional: sliced jalapeños

Meanwhile the beans are cooking, prepare the vegetables.

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Slice half a yellow onion, two Roma tomatoes, and rough chop half a bunch of cilantro.

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In low-medium heat, sauté all the vegetables. Once onion is translucent add the garlic. This is so your garlic doesn’t burn and get bitter.

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In a separate pan, cook the rough chopped bacon for about 2 mintues. You do not want the bacon to be crispy.

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Incorporate the vegetables and bacon together and sauté for about a minute more.

Bring heat to low, add the vegetables/bacon saute to cooked beans and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the spices: onion and garlic powder. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Do a taste check and adjust accordingly.

Note: You could add sliced jalapenos if you want a little kick. 🙂

Serve in a bowl and enjoy with corn chips or alone.

Happy eating,

Liz Ray

 

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