Cinco de mayo
Happy Cinco de mayo! I hope you're all enjoying commemorating Mexico's victorious battle against French imperialism. In Mexico this is a great excuse to drink a lot and in Chicago it's an opportunity to drive around the loop honking like crazy and waving gigantic Mexican flags out the window. (Actually Mexican Independence Day, September 16th, is an occasion for the same). Here in Italy, I miss the downtown revelry so I made myself some Tequila-Drunken Pinto Beans with Cilantro and Bacon. El plato es muy bueno y sencillo. Asi se hace:
***By the way, I took this recipe from the "Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen" cookbook, then changed it a bit. For a guy who used to look like a Mormon boy scout ###, Chicago star chef, Rick Bayless really knows Mexican food. He seems to be on a mission to raise Mexican food to it's well-deserved level of "world-class cuisine" that deserves as much reverence as French or Italian. No Eurocentrism here! Any non-Bayless recipe I've ever seen that includes oregano has specified, "preferably Greek"; he always adds "preferably Mexican".
###You may have noticed that in this current edition of the book, they've made him over to look more like a Mormon beatnik.
1 generous cup dry pintos (soaked overnight in cold water)
4 ozs cubed pork shoulder
4 ozs bacon or pancetta
1 small onion finely diced
1 jalapeno finely chopped (with or without hot inner ribs and seeds-your choice)
salt to taste
tequila for drizzling on the finished dish
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup rice (I like arborio for this)
2 cups water
Put the beans in a medium saucepan with the pork shoulder and cover with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil then cover and lower heat to medium-low to simmer. Simmer for about 2 hours or until the beans are very tender. If the lid is not very tight, you may need to add water periodically to keep the level about 1/2 inch above the beans. Music to boil beans by: Chicago artist, Liz Phair's "Cinco de Mayo" on her album, "Whip-smart".
Once the beans are tender, fry the bacon slowly over medium low heat so that it renders a lot of its oil and becomes thoroughly brown and crispy. About 10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and add the onion and jalapeno to the bacon grease. (Mmm... bacon grease...) Fry until golden brown. Add to the beans. Salt the beans to taste. The liquid of the beans should have a creamy texture. If it's too thin, mash some beans on the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. That'll thicken it up.
Keep cooking the beans over low heat to blend the flavors while you make some rice. Add the rice and water to another medium saucepan and bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes depending on the type of rice you use. Arborio has a warm stick-to-your-ribs quality that goes really well with this Mexican bean dish. It is especially good the next day placed in a small, non-stick frying pan with a little oil and made crispy on the top and bottom.
Plate the rice and ladle some beans on the side. Sprinkle some cilantro on top, then some of the reserved bacon. Finally add about 1 teaspoon of tequila to the beans and enjoy!