If I’m lucky enough to write another cookbook, I’d like to write one about using pantry staples. That’s how you separate a cook from a recipe follower: the recipe follower makes a list, buys what they need for that recipe, cooks it and repeats that process again the next day. A cook opens the refrigerator, opens the pantry, and makes dinner with what they find. That’s what I love to do most and what I’d like to teach other people to do.
Start, for example, with a bag of dried beans. You know I’m really into the Rancho Gordo brand, but you can use any dried beans. These ones were Pinquitos, but use any small brown beans for this formula.
Throw them in a pot of cold water, turn up the heat, throw in some aromatics if you have them (half an onion left intact, a carrot, celery, a garlic clove, a bay leaf, a dried chile…whatever!), bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook one to two hours until the beans are cooked all the way through (they should be creamy). At the very end, add a big fistful of salt to the pot with the beans so the beans get seasoned. Strain the beans and save the liquid. Now you’ve got beans to play with.
For this first meal, I had Craig bring home mammoth pork chops from Lindy & Grundy which I seared in a very hot pan (see here). Meanwhile, I cooked some onion and garlic in a pot with a little neutral oil, added the beans to the mix along with some of their liquid, simmered and tasted for salt.
When the pork chops were done, I deglazed the pan with a pour of balsamic vinegar and a pat of butter which made a sauce. I plated up the beans and the chops and poured the sauce over everything.
That’s meal #1 for you and it was a mighty one, especially with this wine:
The next night for dinner, I examined my leftover beans:
And decided to make chorizo dinner tacos.
That’s as simple as browning chorizo in a pan (this was raw Mexican chorizo which I took out of the casing first)…
…adding the beans and, in an inspired move, half a bottle of beer (I used Red Stripe):
Bring to a simmer and allow the flavors to marry while you make a salsa.
I cut cherry tomatoes into quarters, added a chopped jalapeno or two (stemmed and seeded first), lots of chopped cilantro, red onion, a big squeeze of lime juice, a dash of Tabasco, a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt:
When most of the liquid was gone in the pan…
I toasted small flour tortillas (from the La Brea Bakery) on an open flame on my gas stove then piled on the chorizo/beans and salsa:
Craig insisted that he wanted sour cream so he dug some up in the fridge which he spooned on top:
Not bad for leftovers, right? That’s Meal #2.
Meal #3 happened on Saturday morning and what’s you see at the top of the post. Simply make scrambled eggs, add grated cheddar cheese at the end and repeat your taco making process from Meal #2, only start by piling eggs on to your toasted tortilla, then the beans, then the salsa.
Who knew a bag of dried beans could yield so much culinary happiness? I did. Which is why I’m here to show you the way!