Pot beans recipe coming! Though dried beans are just about always superior to canned, probably the single biggest thing that keeps me from cooking with them more often is the time involved. Not so much the actual time cooking – around two hours, generally, which is a long time if you want dinner on the table at 7 and it’s 6:30, but not so bad if you have a little time to work with, especially since it’s 99% unattended – but the overnight soaking that most recipes call for. True, you can do a quick-soak (where you bring the dried beans to a boil and then let them sit, covered, for an hour) but that’s still an extra hour (plus the time to get them up to a boil) – and, really, three hours is pushing things, even for the most patient among us.
So it’s good to know that in Mexico they don’t bother with the pre-cooking soak at all, and that this recipe lets you go from dried to delicious in a little over two hours. Not lightning fast, but you don’t have to plan a day ahead, and the difference between cooking dried beans and heating up a can is totally worth it.
This is a really basic, straightforward preparation (adapted from Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cuisines of Mexico), and you should feel free to dress it up as you see fit. Minced chipotles in adobo or a little chipotle powder mixed in with the other spices adds a nice smoky heat, chopped pickled chiles or onions are delicious stirred in at the end, and fresh lime juice is always good. And use any beans you like – I used pintos, but other varieties work well too. (I’m a big fan of black beans, though they take a little longer to cook than other kinds. A little epazote – either fresh or dried – added during the last half hour of cooking is traditional with black beans, as well.)
These pot beans are traditionally served with their broth in a bowl, usually after the main course but sometimes alongside it, and eaten with a tortilla or a spoon. If you don’t want something quite so brothy, you can drain the beans and serve them by themselves, and reserve the broth – it’s a fantastic soup base.
Put everything but the salt in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and let cook for around 2 hours, or until the beans are soft. (If you're using black beans, this may take longer than with other varieties.)
Stir in the salt and let cook for another 1/2 hour.
Serve the beans and their broth in individual bowls. Or strain out the beans, serve those, and use the broth as a soup base.