Monday, March 1, 2010
Celebrating Independence Texas Style.
Texas Independence Day is the celebration of the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. From the Battle of the Alamo to the declaration of independence from Mexico; Texas has always had more in common than differences with the culture & traditions of Mexico. As our friends in Mexico love to remind us Texas & Mexico used to be all the same country...
Never is that commonality less obvious than when I see our love for both the traditional Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine right here in the Lone Star State.
Frijoles de Olla is the classic bean dish which is brought to the table in a Cazuela or Olla (the traditional earthenware pottery found throughout Mexico) after the main course has been eaten. I made a brief trip last week to the Mercado Zaragosa, in Pedras Negras, Coahuila. The Mercado Zaragosa is where my father bought me my first Olla many years ago. I continue to use that same Olla to this day when I want to make traditional Frijoles de Olla. I was relieved to see that the small market place in the heart of old Piedras Negras was still as quiet & tranquil as I remembered it. The recent troubles along the border regions in Northern Mexico have missed the sleepy burg of Piedras for now. I saw rows of traditional pottery (including several Ollas) on the familiar sidewalk in front of the Mercado. I made my way inside to purchase bottles of La Vencedora vanilla & honey. Those flavors are but just a few of the items I enjoy searching for each time I travel to Mexico.
In our quest to remove some of our meat from our weekly diet I decided to make our Frijoles de Olla without any meat or animal fats. The delicious Frijoles both North & South of the Border often have Lard in the recipe. While the taste might be more in keeping with tradition, this recipe has enough flavor the meat & lard is hardly a passing thought. I also prepared this dish with a soy chorizo sausage rather than traditional chorizo. There are several varieties of Soy Chorizo available here in the states however I suggest buying it to cook before you use it in the beans. Not all Soy Chorizos are created equal, ha,ha! (Trust me on this.) You do not have to cook these beans in anything other than a large pot or dutch oven. I served the Frijoles with Veggie Tacos. I have posted this recipe before on my blog & here is the link. Whether you are avoiding meat for Lent, dietary or life choice give these a try.
Frijoles de Olla
2 cups dried *Pinto beans, sorted & washed, soaked overnight and drained
1 medium White Onion, peeled & chopped
2 large Garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
4 Roma Tomatoes, roasted, peeled & diced
1 12 oz. Soy-rizo link, removed from casing
2 tsp. Chili Powder
1/4 cup Cilantro
4 quarts water
Salt & Pepper to taste
Place the beans in a large Olla - clay pot - or stockpot with the onion, garlic, the 4 roasted tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil & then lower to slow simmer for the next 3 hours. Do not add salt until the beans have finished cooking. Cover and cook for 3 hours or until tender. During the first hour of cooking saute the Soy-rizo, Soy Chorizo. (real chorizo or sausage may be used.)
When the beans are done, remove about 1 cup of them and mash or puree them with some of their liquid. Add the mashed beans back to the pot, and continue cooking a few more minutes, until the mashed beans have thickened the bean broth a bit. Add salt & black pepper to taste.
Serve the beans in the clay pot or an attractive, heat-proof bowl. Pass a platter of garnishes - chopped onions, crumbled cheese, chopped cilantro - so that they can be individually added to taste.
*In Southern Mexico black beans may be used but in much of Mexico as well as the Southwest Pinto beans or a small red bean are used more often than not.
Veggie Tacos are fast becoming a favorite at our home while I am scaling back the meat consumption for a bit of a healthier Texas to Mexico dining experience. I have made these tacos or a version of them many times before. You can be creative & use a never ending variety of vegetables or spices to make them as simple or as spicy as you handle. For some extra heat you might try adding finely diced jalapenos along side of your garnishes.
My Veggie Tacos recipes can be found here on a previous blog. I garnished the tacos this week with sliced radish, alfalfa sprouts & avocados.