“Drunken” Black Beans – “Frijoles Borrachos” -- with Vegetable Sofrito

“Drunken” Black Beans – “Frijoles Borrachos” -- with Vegetable Sofrito

This luscious dish has come a long way. The trouble is from my reading I can’t find out where the dish started its journey. I have not uncovered direct lineage back to Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America. What seems plausible culinarily is that Frijoles Borrachos started as slow-cooked Frijoles Charros (“Cowboy Beans”), a bonafide Mexican dish that I actually ate with a family there. The addition of beer and perhaps increasing the bacon makes the beans “drunken,” and I’m guessing this cute variation on Charros probably started in the US.

Bowl: Maria Dondero, Marmalade Pottery, Athens GA
As I said, the dish as I make it has come a long way. Mexican Charros beans are typically prepared from pinto or other tan-colored beans. “Drunken Beans” in all the recipes I’ve checked stick with pintos and add specifically Mexican beer. Like Charros, Borrachos typically have bacon and sometimes ham cooked in. On our most recent visit in Mexico, when my wife and I stayed with family friends in San Luis Potosí, the Charros they served with barbecue on Sunday were made with pintos. However, the family’s daily beans, always slow simmering on the stove, were black beans because of the grandmother’s influence. She came from Vera Cruz, near the Caribbean coast, where black beans are favored.

Black beans, with their rich, complex flavor, have become my favorites as well. Thus the drunken beans I make are drunken black beans. I’ve also “upgraded” the dish by using red wine rather than beer. And I’ve found that the typical bacon and ham are not necessary for great-tasting drunken black beans. And while I was not seeking a vegetarian bean dish, I stumbled into one, and it’s even a vegan. This much-modified dish with uncertain origins has become a family favorite. A similar, larger-scale version shows up for occasional specials at our restaurant, Donderos’ Kitchen.

A “sofrito,” or fried seasoning mixture, stirred into well-simmered beans in Spanish-Caribbean and Mexican cooking adds a fresh flavor shortly before serving. The best beans are cooked from scratch, after overnight soaking, but for convenience I use canned beans.

The recipe serves 8 as a side dish or for spooning onto tacos or nachos. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator.
3 (14-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed, set aside                                        
2 tablespoons olive oil                                                                                      
1/2 of a small-medium onion, finely diced (save remaining half for the sofrito)                
1 clove garlic, minced                                                                                                  
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus to taste                                                                                     
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves                                                                                         

In pot, gently fry the onion in olive oil until well softened. Stir in the garlic and fry gently 2 minutes. Add the drained beans, water up to 1/2 inch below the surface of the beans, the salt and ground cloves. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if liquid is drying down.

3 tablespoons olive oil                                                                                                  
1/2 small-medium onion, finely diced                                                                
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced                                                                                   
1/2 medium Poblano pepper, finely diced (substitute is half a green bell pepper) 
1 large clove garlic minced                                                                                           
1/4 teaspoon salt                                                                                                         
1/4 teaspoon (or more) crushed red pepper or cayenne                                                
3/8 cup red wine                                                                                                                                                                                              
In a frying pan, fry the onion, bell and Poblano peppers and garlic in the oil, stirring frequently until vegetables are softened. Add salt, hot pepper and wine. Stir and fry about two minutes to dry it slightly.

Stir the sofrito into the cooked beans. Let simmer 5 minutes, stirring periodically. Add a little water, if necessary, to provide a little creaminess to the sauce around the beans. Taste and add salt, if needed.

Serve sprinkled with Mexican crumbling cheese and coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, if desired. Accompany with a salsa (green salsa preferred) plus wedges of lime to squeeze on.

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