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Ingredients

Trey's Texas Embassy Beans

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Knock-your-socks-off Tex-Mex pintos. Named for my husband's cottage near the Ng'ong Hills west of Nairobi.

Time: 3+ hours

2 cups dried pinto beans

1/2 lb. salt pork, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (optional)

1 white onion, coarsely chopped

1 Tbs. custom pinto spice blend* 1 1/2 Tbs. ground cumin

1 Tbs. chili powder or an additional Tbsp. of custom blend

1 tsp. garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 dried ancho pepper

1/2 tsp. salt or 1/2 tsp. powdered beef bouillon

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeño peppers (La Costena brand preferred)

1/2 tsp. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. masa corn flour

1/2 cup mild cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

 

*Custom pinto spice blend:

Equal parts of chili powder, cumin powder, garlic powder, oregano and salt

READ ALL DIRECTIONS BEFORE STARTING!

Cold Soak Method:

Thoroughly dissolve 1 Tbsp. of salt in a cup of hot water. Don't worry about over-salting as the beans can onlyabsorb so much.

Put the beans in a large soaking pot (1 qallon enamelware will do). Add a half gallon of water and the salt water, and let the beans soak overnight until they have doubled in size. Transfer to a collendar and rinse thoroughly, then transfer to the cooking pot with two inches of water covering the beans.

Hot-Soak Method:

Bring the beans to a boil, add the salt and simmer on low for an hour. Rinse using hot tap water. Return to cooking pot and cover in two inches of fresh hot tap water.

 

If using a dried ancho pepper, soak it in warm water until it is soft and save the soaking water for the bean pot. When soft, remove the stem and seeds. If using a fresh pepper, remove the stem and seeds.

Put the beans over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

In a frying pan, brown the salt pork then drain off the fat (save for future recipes) and add the pork to the bean pot.

Add the coarsely chopped onion, ancho pepper, ancho water, salt, spices, and brown sugar to the pot.

Simmer the beans for 2 hours, watching the water level during cooking. maintaining at least 1/2" of water over the beans. Add water from a hot kettle as necessary.

When the beans are soft, then remove the ancho pepper skin from the pot and add the jalapeños.

Use a flour sifter to add the masa flour to the pot a little at a time, mixing carefully to avoid lumps and just enough to give the broth a bit of body. If need be, immediately use your cooking spoon to press any lumps against the side of the pot to dissolve them. Cook for another 15 minutes.

Top with shredded cheese and serve.

 

To reduce the kick, leave out the japapeños, switch to a yellow onion, and use red chili powderrather than cayenne-based chili powder.

Why the separate pinto spice? So that you can balance the flavor as you cook. When you get to the last half hour, taste the beans and add the custom blend to taste, allowing at least 20 minutes before the end of cooking time..

For a deeper flavor, heat simmer two tablespoons of pinto blend in two cups of water for ten minutes and add this to the cold or hot soak water. This might seem wasteful, but it does add a bit more flavor.

By the way, jalapeño is pronounced "hal-ah-pay- nyo", not "jal-ah-peeno".