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La Malinchista’s Frijoles de la Olla

December 9, 2006

It’s my birthday, and I’m making a big pot of beans. I learned to make beans not from my grandma, or an auntie, or even anyone I know in person. I learned to make beans from a lady on the internet. La Malinchista posted a funny recipe on her web journal (the forerunner to blogs, really), and I still have a copy I printed in college. Thank goodness, because La Malinchista seems to have disappeared from the internets. I have tried and tried to find some sign of La Malinchista’s continued presence on the interwebs, but thus far have had no luck. The following is her original piece on the frijoles, printed straight from her old site.

What you need

* a big olla, meaning a dutch oven or other big 5 quart/5 liter pan (frijoles de la olla, get it?). never make less than this. I don’t know why; it’s just not right. always make a lot.
* a big bag of pinto beans (not black beans, not kidney beans, not lima beans) at the market. Not those wimpy little 1 lb. bags…find at least a 2 or 5 lb. bag. beans are a commitment, remember.
* a medium sized onion
* salt and pepper
* garlic cloves as indicated below: 5 cloves = you’re married or living together, 4 cloves = committed relationship and you’ll both be eating the beans -OR- dating a mexican or italian person, 3 cloves = single person, no date in the foreseeable future, 2 cloves = single person, no date tonight, 1 clove = haven’t been laid in months but there’s always hope (use your judgement here, of course, and ignore my smartass comments. i always use 4-5 cloves regardless…)

Okay, let’s get cooking…

pick the day. beans can take anywhere from 3 – 4 hours to cook, depending on the amount cooked, and the particulars of yoru stove. and you know, third grade fire science, means pick a day when you can stay home and keep an eye on the stove. the best way, i think, is to cook a medium amount over a very low flame for a long time, usually 3 – 3 1/2 hours. you can speed it up by cooking over a medium flame for 2 hours, but i don’t recommend it. part of the fun is torturing yourself with anticipation with the smell of cooking beans all afternoon.

wash the beans. dump a bunch into your olla, about an inch or inch-and-a-half deep on the bottom of the pan. in my five-quart olla, i used ~4 cups of beans (about a pound). now run water into the pan and jiggle the beans around to rinse them good. watch for an occasional rock or tweaked bean. drain and refill with fresh water, almost to the top of the pan.

peel and add the garlic gloves. peel the outermost skin off the onion, cut into quarters, and drop into the pan. now add salt and pepper. and that’s about it! some folks add all sorts of things at this point from bacon to cilantro to peppers, but i’m a big purist, and i think just the simple fresh beans are best by themselves. you can always dress up leftovers later if you’re so inclined.

heat over a high flame til the pot is boiling, then turn it way down to a simmer and cover. let it simmor for a couple of hours. check on it occasionally, just to make sure the beans are still covered in water and that your kitchen hasn’t burned down. you can salt and pepper them again, but do not let them run out of water!

your house/apartment/whatever will soon start to smell really good. the onions and garlic will literally dissolve into the bean juice. the beans will soften, and eventually start to break apart. that’s how you know they’re done.

simple, huh? you can serve up a big bowl as an entree, actually, with a hunk of fresh bread, or corn tortillas and fresh queso (cheese). the bread is good for sopping up bean juice, which must be full of all those vitamins and stuff. or you can serve it as a side dish with arroz con pollo or some other good food. i’ve been making them as an entree lately mostly for convenience sake. but my grandma would have a fit if she knew, ‘cuz no meal’s a meal without a slab of meat.

enjoy!

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