BEANS WITH BEEF, CHIPOTLES, AND EPAZOTE : Frijoles Charros
The charro (cowboy) lifestyle is alive and well in the beautiful mountains of northern Mexico.
Here cooking often revolves around a big pot and a wood-fired cook box, where frijoles cook slowly overnight while the herd dozes under the stars. Frijoles charros always start with big handfuls of chipotles and epazote, and then, to paraphrase one cook, “you add whatever you got,” whether it’s chunks of beef, pigs’ feet and skin, vegetables, or tomatoes. When cooked, the frijoles should be brothy but full of beans and pieces of meat. Serve with flour tortillas
and, if you like, a spoonful of Salsa Mexicana.
2½ cups dried bayo, pinto, pink, or flor de mayo beans (about 1 pound), rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon fresh lard or vegetable oil
1 pound boneless beef chuck, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 smoked pork hock or pig’s foot, split
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo
1 white onion, diced
4 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 jalapeño chiles, halved lengthwise
6 cloves garlic, sliced
10 sprigs fresh epazote, or 3 tablespoons dried epazote
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 cups water
Place the beans in a large (at least 5½-quart) slow cooker.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the lard over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides, until it is a rich, deep brown. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker. Wrap the pork hock firmly in a piece of cheesecloth or tie with string; this will allow the flavor to permeate the beans while keeping the small bones in one place. Add the pork to the cooker along with all the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, or until the beans and meat are very tender. Remove and discard the epazote sprigs.
Pick any meat from the pork hock and add to the pot.
• Browning the beef adds wonderful color and flavor to the dish, but if you don’t have time, just add the cubed meat to the pot with the other ingredients.
To add flavor and body to the finished dish, in addition to the pork hock or foot you may add a 6-inch square of fresh pig skin (available at well-stocked Latin butchers) or a 4-ounce piece of salt pork to the slow cooker along with the beans. Just before serving, cut into small pieces and return to the cooker.