Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
Last week was one of those between-shopping weeks. You know, those annoying periods of Home Ec during which the shelves remain stocked, with at least 50% of whatever it is that you bought last week, but you still can’t figure out dinner? To compound matters, I flatly refuse to buy food right before a holiday, and Spring Break was imminent: a road trip to Santa Cruz, and then to the ballpark. (On a related tangent, and gender politics notwithstanding, the hard reality is that you’re unlikely to see many Giants games when you live 75 miles from the park, in a house chock-a-block with little women, and I’m outnumbered 6 to 1, counting the cats. My point being, keeping my girls happy on the eve of our trip seemed important.)
Scouring the cupboard yielded some 97 boxes of dried pasta, a still-virgin bag of brown rice that my wife optimistically adopted back in the mid-90s, a random assortment of canned goods (tomato paste, tuna, and – inexplicably – haggis), and a handful of options from last month’s Birthday Bean Sampler from Rancho Gordo. I knew I had some leftover tortillas, jalapenos, and cotija cheese in the fridge from an ongoing flirtation with chilaquiles, and I almost always have a few eggs from one of my favorite local chicken ranchers lying about, so I grabbed a bag of dried beans and set out to play a simple riff on huevos rancheros; as the entire country of Mexico has known for generations, eggs, corn, cheese and beans can be combined into complete proteins in almost limitless ways, and breakfast-for-dinner has a storied tradition in our home…
I continue to be astounded by the qualitative difference and depth of flavor that I get out of ancient strains of the deceptively humble legume: cooked simply in water, with plenty of time and a little salt, these under-appreciated if flatulent treats will utterly beguile your perception of what beans are all about. Add a splash of livid chili-pepper green, grate some tangy snow-white cheese, and top it all off with a crazy-fresh egg with a yolk the color of marigolds, and you’ve either got a cheap, healthy, crowd-pleasing family meal, a hangover cure extraordinaire, or – at least in our house – both, for the price of one.
Local Huevos with Refried Heirloom Beans and Jalapeno Oil (4-6 servings)
Ingredients: 1 pack of Corn Tortillas from your favorite local mercado or, failing that, good old Safeway, 1 per plate; 0.5lb of Dried Heirloom Beans (Rio Zapes or Pintos would be classic, but I made this batch with Good Mother Stallards, and we all loved the color and texture); fresh Eggs, 1 per plate; 1C finely grated Cotija Cheese; 1-2 fresh Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and finely chopped; Olive Oil, as needed; 1T minced White Onion; and Salt and Pepper, to taste.
- Soak and cook the beans according to their instructions; drain, reserving 1C of the pot liquor. (This can be done indefinitely far in advance.) Cook the onion in 2T of olive oil (or rendered lard, if you’re a purist; or butter, if you’re French) until soft, add the beans and some pot liquor, and mash and stir until very smooth, adding the liquor as needed to achieve the desired consistency (in addition to a good bean, some patience and a little arm muscle seem to be the key to a proper refried). This will take 15-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning and keep warm.
- While the beans are cooking, or in between mashings, puree the jalapeno with enough olive oil in a blender or food processor to turn it into a smooth sauce, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste; I would typically run it through a strainer and just use the infused oil, but that’s totally optional.
- When everything else is ready (or in parallel, if you don’t mind moving a bunch of pans at once), gently fry the eggs (they will look much better sunny-side up).
- Quickly warm the tortillas, top with the beans, then the cheese, and finally the egg. Garnish the egg with good salt and dress the plate with the jalapeno oil.