Fall is here, and with it come cold, damp, windy days tailor made for spending a morning puttering around in the kitchen. For the moment, I’m still excited by the cooler weather and bringing out my favorite cozy sweaters for the the first time…Come January, I may be less excited, but for today – bring on the fall foods and Halloween spooks.
I’ve also had nearly 2 weeks now without traveling for work, and am beginning to feel my energy rebound. The house is a bit cleaner and I have more energy and time to get back to my kitchen. Mark and I also both took Friday off work and spent the whole day together. We saw close friends and remembered the joy of having a whole day together with nothing on the agenda. Bliss.
Friday evening, we spontaneously decided to check out the production of Count of Monte Cristo at Lifeline Theatre, just a few blocks from our house…and I am so glad we did. It was a stunning production that brought your forward in your seat as you were drawn into the Count’s intrigues, and once again, the sets and costumes at this small venue would not be out of place downtown in the theater district with the care and attention they put into every detail. If you live in Chicago, I’d highly recommend checking out the production which is playing through November 13.
A couple of weeks ago, Shauna wrote a beautiful post about her weekly pot of beans and using them to make breakfast tacos. Two weeks later, that post was still bumping around in my head, so I rummaged through the basket of beans in my pantry and came up with a small jar of my favorite Rancho Gordo Old Mother Stollard beans, which are perfect for tacos. The beans are nicely plump and can simmer a long time without exploding, while remaining creamy inside. In place of Stollards, I might recommend pintos – they will fall apart, but I like their creamy texture almost as much as the firmness of Stollards.
Bean Tacos with Chard
1 1/2 cups dried Rancho Gordo Old Mother Stollard Beans (or pintos)
1 carrot, snapped into a few pieces
2 stalks celery, cut in half
1 onion, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch chard, washed, leaves separated from stalks and reserved; mince stalks
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 T bacon fat or olive oil
1 T olive oil for sauteeing the chard leaves
1 ham hock (about 12oz – if you’re vegetarian, triple the smoked paprika to add a nice smoky flavor)
1 T chile con carne blend, or another chile powder you like
1 T ancho chile powder
3 T chipotle puree
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste
Feta cheese & cilantro for garnish
fresh corn tortillas for serving
- The night before you plan to cook the beans, pour them into a large bowl and cover with 4-5 inches of water. Stollards will absorb a LOT of water.
- The next morning, heat a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon fat or olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the minced onion, chard stalks and red bell pepper and saute for 5-8 minutes until the veggies begin to soften. Add the garlic and stir for one more minute.
- Drain the beans and pour into the pot. Add enough water to just cover the beans, then add another inch of water on top. Add the ham hock, carrot and celery. Cover, and bring to a boil. Once the beans boil for 5 minutes, turn the heat down to low, so that the beans are a low simmer, throwing up the occasional lazy bubble. Simmer uncovered for an hour and a half, at which point the beans will be mostly done.
- Remove the ham hock and set aside to cool. Add the spices to the pot: cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle puree, chile con carne and ancho chile powder, and a 1/2 tsp of salt. Stir the spices into the beans. The pot will still be pretty soupy at this point.
- Let the beans simmer on the stove for another 1-2 hours, until the broth is reduced to a spicy gravy, clinging to every bean. Stir the beans whenever you walk by, but they don’t need a whole lot of attention of fussing. When the beans are done, and most of the liquid has evaporated, shred the meat from the ham hock, removing any fat, and add back to the pot of beans.
- Sauteeing the chard: Tear the chard leaves into bite sized pieces. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan, and add the chard along with a pinch of salt. Toss and coat the greens in oil, and cook for 1-2 minutes, just until the greens wilt. Scoop the greens out of the pan and spread on top of the pot of beans, and move the pot to the table, so that everyone can scoop their own beans for tacos and garnish how they like.