Borrachos, remixed

Dinner: March 15, 2010

It’s funny how a humble dish you grew up with can make a big splash when you share it with friends. I first posted about these “drunken” beans years ago on a group food blog I contributed to, and I recently revisited the recipe for food52’s “Your Best Recipe for Beans” challenge. Since then, and to my delight, these soupy, homey beans have gained some new fans. These really are a go-to dish for me – they’re a breeze to prepare, they’re inexpensive, and they are a great option when you need to serve a crowd. They can be made in advance (in fact I think they taste even better after a day or two), and they hold beautifully in a slow cooker or a heavy pot in a low oven. They’re as good with summer barbecue or burgers as they are alongside heartier winter fare like enchiladas or roast chicken, and they stand alone quite nicely with a stack of warmed tortillas alongside.

True Vermont Cranberry Beans

We are lucky to have had great dried heirloom beans from Freedom Bean Farm in Maine available at our farmers’ market earlier in the season, and I stocked up to get us through the winter months. My favorite beans for this dish are a variety called True Vermont Cranberry Beans, a smallish, red-mottled bean with a tender bite, but you can certainly use whatever variety of dried beans you have available. Pinto beans, borlotti beans, and the like all work extremely well. (Rancho Gordo is a great online source of heirloom beans.)

For this latest version, I decided to skip the pork entirely, omitting the bacon and its rendered fat, instead adding some of my favorite spices – ground chipotle powder and smoked Spanish paprika – to mimic the smoky depth the bacon would impart. I used olive oil here to soften the onion, but any vegetable oil will do. I asked my pork-loving husband to taste them before even telling him what I had done differently, and he had no clue they were meat-free.

I use my own home-pickled Serrano chiles in this dish, but if you don’t make your own, feel free to use canned green chiles from your local grocery. I like my borrachos with a little zip, but if you’re sensitive to heat, you can of course dial back on the amount of chipotle and chile peppers (or serve the pickled chiles alongside so guests can add them to taste).

Borrachos, Vegan Variation

1 pound dried Pinto or other small pink/red beans
6 cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
½ to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano or dried marjoram
2-3 canned pickled whole Jalapeño or Serrano chiles, plus 2-3 tablespoons of the spicy brine
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 bottle amber or dark beer
Kosher salt
Juice of one lime, about 1 oz.

Pick over the beans to remove any stones or debris, and place them in a large pot. Add 6 cups of cold tap water, cover the pot, and bring it to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans stand, undrained, for an hour. (Note: the beans should be fairly tender at this point, though older beans may need more soaking time.)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.
Add the onion to the pot with a pinch of salt and cook until softened. Add the garlic cloves, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, and the oregano or marjoram, rubbing the dried herb between your palms to crumble it a bit, and cook until fragrant. Add the beans with their cooking liquid, then add the tomatoes, the beer, the chile(s) and the chile brine.

Bring the beans up to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 1 to 1½ hours, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust salt as needed. Stir in the lime juice just before serving, then ladle into bowls.

20 thoughts on “Borrachos, remixed

  1. Sara says:

    Thanks for the recipe – these look great…. you’re lucky to have such a great source for dried beans! Must scout out some online sources, those sound too good!

  2. Christine says:

    Those beans are gorgeous! And just the inspiration I need to make some of my own. Especially since I have some canned chipotle peppers that need to be used up sooner than later. I figure that those will make a nice addition.

    Oh yum!

  3. These are so great – I’ve made them in several versions now. Most recent: black beans with canned chipotles in adobo for the heat and smoke. Delicious, satisfying and freezable.

  4. I love the sound of these. I’ve tried similar bean recipes but not with beer so am looking forward to seeing how that tastes. I just need to work out what Tevo is first 🙂

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    Sara – Thank you! I added a link to Rancho Gordo’s site – a great source for heirloom beans.

    Christine – Thanks! Your canned chipotles would make a fine addition!

    Mary – I’m fresh out of black beans, and I think I need to remedy that!

    Katie – I hope you like them!

    Kerri – Carmen got it right, but I’ve also edited the recipe 🙂

    Carmen – Whoops – in my haste to get the post up, I forgot to expand my shorthand! Thanks for clarifying 😉

  6. What an idiot I am, I thought it was a typically American ingredient that I couldn’t get here! Thanks for the clarification 🙂

  7. Maria says:

    Just made a pot….holy goodness!
    I have been wanting to make this recipe since you first posted it….now I want to kick myself in the arse for waiting so long! I used some Santa Maria Pinquitos from Rancho Gordo and they worked just great.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. Bart says:

    I tried your borrachos recipe and it turned out way too hot and I wonder why. I used one 7 ounce can of pickled jalapeños (you called for 2-3 cans), 1/3 of one 7 ounce can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and a teaspoon of chiptole chilli pepper.

    After 45 minutes of cooking I noticed that the jalapeños and chipotle peppers had the seeds in and took them all out but it was too late.

    Do you have any ideas on which of my ingredients was too hot?

  9. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi Bart – thanks for your comment! My recipe calls for 2-3 canned pickled jalapeno peppers from ONE jar or can, not 2-3 full cans of them, so I think that’s where the problem lies! I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. I like things spicy but wow, that would be way too hot even for my tastes! 🙂 The addition of canned chipotle peppers is nice, but if you try this again, I would use those in place of, rather than in addition to, the chipotle powder I call for in the dish. One thing that is always good with spicy things is to err on the side of caution, because you can always add more pickled chilies, or chipotle, at the table. Thanks again, and I hope if you try this again it’s more palatable!

  10. jackie says:

    hey… know this is an old post but just wanted to thank you for this recipe – it is my go-to bean preparation now. makes great burritos!

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