SMOKY CHIPOTLE BLACK BEANS
Few dishes compliment the bold, spicy flavors of Mexican food better than a bowl of warm, perfectly seasoned black beans. Thrown in a burrito in place of boring old pintos, these smoky black beans instantly add another dimension to your everyday Mexican repertoire. In my opinion, this is a side that’s good enough to stand on its own as a main course. Garnished with a bit of cilantro, some crumbled queso fresco and maybe a dollop of crema, this is Mexican comfort food at its best. And, at a prep time of just over 30 minutes, this is great for a weeknight meal.
The main flavor component of this side dish is the earthy, smoky chipotle chile. If you’ve never worked with the dried version before, this recipe is a great introduction; their inherent flavor shines through without being overshadowed by the tomato and vinegar based adobo sauce found in canned varieties. For this recipe I used the morita chipotle but if you can only find canned chipotles in adobo, I definitely recommend going with La Morena brand.
SMOKY BLACK BEANS
Inspired by Cindy Pawlcyn’s, Big Small Plates
Toasting the chiles prior to soaking will help bring out their natural oils and amazing aroma. For another dimension of smoke flavor, I cook the onion and garlic in bacon grease that I save in a small jar in my fridge. Finally, be careful when seasoning the dish with salt as some canned beans can already be a bit salty.
- 2 14-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed well.
- 2 dried chipotle chiles, or canned
- 1 tablespoon lard, bacon grease, or olive oil
- 1/3 onion, finely diced
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 cups chicken stock
- Cilantro and queso fresco for garnish
- If using the dried chipotle chiles, preheat an oven or a toaster oven to 350°. Place the chiles on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, or until aromatic. Alternatively, place the chiles in a dry pan and toast until fragrant over moderate heat. Remove the chiles from the oven and submerge them in a small bowl of warm water for at least 20 minutes. Once the chiles have reconstituted, drain, remove their stems and chop finely to a paste.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the lard or olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Add the cumin, bay leaf and chipotle paste. Add the black beans to the saucepan along with just enough chicken stock to make the beans saucy. Stir to make sure everything is well combined and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Don’t be afraid to add more stock if the beans become too dry.
- Season the beans with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve the beans warm, garnished with a few cilantro sprigs and a generous crumble of queso fresco.
Serves 6 as a side