Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pasta Day... or Frijoles Refritos Day?

So, I was told by my endocrinologist that I was to make one day each week a day to indulge a bit.  I am allowed one day a week for pasta.  I started thinking, as much as I love my noodles, I also love my beans.

Even though today is Father's Day, and even though most of my reminiscing is about him, I can't help but to wander toward my mother.  I don't know why.  I think I am missing her cooking.

Growing up, we didn't eat extravagantly.  Lots of comfort foods.  One thing I had at least once a week was beans.  String (Never called them "green"), Lima, Butter.  And every other time was  Mom's Frijoles Refritos.  I loved watching her make them.  Everyone had their own ways of making these.  I don't know about theirs, but my mother's were the best.  Biased?  Okay.  Still, hers were the best.

We shopped for dry beans.  Pintos.  She always used Pintos.  I eagerly awaited the time when she would start her preparation: Heating up the water for the long, overnight soak.  First though, we sorted them.  Mom bought in bulk so we had a bunch of beans to pick through.  We would talk and giggle while we sorted.  Stones, clumps of dirt, broken, halved, and small beans were discarded.  I wish we had a photo of this.  Our black coffee table was soon a bean wonderland;  three huge piles.  One we would use, and the rest were put away for next time.

Then she soaked them.  And the next day she rinsed them.  A lot.  Like ten times.  "Lots of dirt and Lord knows what else could be on them."  Yep.  Finally, she put them on to cook.

This is when my dad would try to chime in.  He cooked a lot of beans himself.  He certainly knew a thing or two!  He would just about cringe when he was told by my mom to leave the ham hocks out.
"The lard flavors them better than a ham hock for these, Frank."  While all other beans were prepared by my father,  the Frijoles Refritos were hers.

Again, this is when I learned about patience.  They may have been cooked (I was the 'bean-checker;  tasting a single bean for done-ness), but they were far from ready.  Mom would then refrigerate them.  Talk about disappointment!  I wanted beans!  Still, I knew it was a three-day process; at least in my family!

Only in cast iron!
The next day, she would break out her cast iron skillet, and her molcajete - her lava mortar and pestle - that had been her mother's (which I now have both of).  She would put the cold beans into the skillet.  She would then add a bit more lard.  Then she would grind her garlic, a bit of onion, in the molecajete. Add that to the skillet.  Then she took a utensil that has I never saw again after she passed away (I think she took it with her) and began smashing the beans.  She took a cup of the beans and totally pureed them in the molecajete, then added them back.  Sometimes she would do this again, but she always got them to the perfect consistency.  She also said that the cast iron gave the beans a "magic spice."  I totally believe this because I tried making them in my stainless fryer and in my crock pot.  I'll never do that again!   Mom is always right.

Then I was called in to add the pièce de résistance, or in this case, the plato de resistencia:  Sharp cheddar that I had shredded my self the day before.  When I say sharp, I mean it-would-have-cut-your-tongue sharp!  Stirring it in, the cheese melted and gave a lovely flow to the beans.   And that's it.  Spread on a corn tortilla (one of hers; she made tons and froze them); perfection.

Maybe someday, I'll share her recipe.  It's one of only a handful that I actually have.  Then again, maybe I won't.

Adding Pintos and lard to my grocery list.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.  Don't worry, my limas are coming up beautifully, and the ham hocks are in the freezer! ♥

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