I have been sick for a couple days, and due to the nature of my illness, unable to really think about food at all.  But I am recovered now, just in time.  I feel very compelled to make this post today.  I am new to blogging, and in a good-faith effort to read and try to interact with other food bloggers in the area, I have subscribed myself to their blogs.  I try to read them as often as they post (not very often) and if possible, write comments on their work.

Well, today I unsubscribed from one.  I wont name names, but they were boasting about their favorite burrito being from Chipotle.  They are from San Antonio.  How can this be?  First of all, anyone from California (land of burritos) can tell you there are many better burritos to be had.  Second, who cares about burritos?  This is Texas!  Okay, I have officially developed a food blogger attitude.

I have eaten at chipotle, and although it is far better in quality and taste than say, taco bell, it is hardly authentic Mexican food.  And the portions are ridiculously large and over-priced.  If you are a vegetarian, Chipotle rocks.  If you want to eat something remotely relevant to food in San Antonio, try eating at one of the dozen places on either side of Chipotle.   Or better yet foodies, try making your own beans.

I just had some of my own refried for breakfast, and no, I am not a cowboy.  That is what we eat here.

So make a big pot, eat it for a couple days as charro beans, then make them refried, and you have excellent healthy protein for about one week, depending on how many mouths you are feeding.

Frijoles charro y refritos

adapted from The Tex-Mex Cookbook, A History in Recipes and Photos by Robb Walsh.

You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Healthy, hearty, humble beans.  Too often made bland, or with overcooked and muddled flavorings.  Here is a recipe that is part food, part history.  From a cookbook that documents culinary and cultural history of San Antonio. Mi Tierra may seem cheesy and touristy to some, with its crazy décor, mariachis, big crowds.  But its food is actually very authentic, though not as refined as some places.  They butcher their own meats on site.  Don’t order the dishes that are too south of the border Mexican (mole)—or too Anglo (taco salad). Try Costillo de Res, Cabrito, cheese enchiladas.  These are the foods invented here in South Texas.  Have the charro beans, and you might want to slurp the bean broth at the end.  And although you may be tempted to improvise here, this is a delicate balance of flavors, so try following the recipe first.  Some of these spices can really take over, you want the combination more than dominate profiles.

2 cups dried pinto beans

8 cups water

Slow cooker: cook 2 hours on high, 6 hours on low.

Charros (Cowboy beans)

1 tsp. lard or canola oil

4 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces (see below for vegetarian versions)

½ onion, chopped

2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed, seeds removed, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon salt

½ tsp. ground cumin

Chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a bottom of a large soup pot.  Saute the bacon and onion together until bacon is beginning to brown, onions are golden.  Add the chiles and garlic, cooking for one more minute.  Add the cooked beans and most of the bean juice from the slow cooker.  Add salt and cumin.  Cook for 10 minutes and then stir in chopped cilantro.  Ladle into small bowls.

Leftovers can be made into refried beans.

¼ cup lard or canola oil*

½ tsp salt

½ cup reserved bean broth

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

3 cups cooked beans, broth reserved

Heat the oil in a frying pan on low.  Using a slotted spoon, put the leftover beans in the oil and use a bean masher to crush them.  Add bean broth to keep the consistency liquid, or else they can burn.  Dont mash them so much there is no texture.  Also, dont worry if they seem too liquid, simply let them cook on the lowest temperature and the water will cook off.  But be careful of burning beans!

Vegetarians/ Vegans:  These are easily made without bacon.  Just add a few drops of smoke flavoring, and some tamari (not so much that you taste it distinctly).  Also, use a second tsp. of oil for the Charro beans.

* You can use less oil if you want.  I dont use lard because it is hard to find actual lard.  Almost everything in the stores here– from fancy pants Central Market to La Michoacana– sells Manteca, which has hydrogenated oils mixed with lard.  I suppose maybe a good butcher might be the only source, or my own cooking.  Anyhow, lard is lower in saturated fat than butter.  If we are gonna eat meat, I say we should use all of the animal, and for flavor more than protein, as this is the most economical and healthful way to eat it.

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