A confession: beans are my favorite comfort food. I love them boiled, mashed or refried, in a soup or on a taco. Lucky enough I live here in Mazatlan where beans are ever-present. There are 50 different bean varieties in Mexico, but the most popular types are: azufrado, mayocoba, black beans, peruano, flor de mayo and flor de junio. It is the perfect plant-based protein, but it also helps to reduce cholesterol as well as blood sugar levels. People in Mexico eat around 10 kg or 22 lb of beans per person per year, which is a 40% decrease from a decade ago.
Refried beans, with or without lard, are available as a side dish in any restaurant. But did you know there is a world beyond refried beans? Please meet Frijoles Puercos or Piggy Beans. The origin of its name is a controversy: some say it’s because it has pork, while others say it’s because the mixture looks messy (‘puerco’).
How to make boiled beans?
If you want to make Frijoles puercos you need to make boiled beans first. Most families prepare their beans in a pressure cooker or a special pan. You can also use an Instant Pot.
500 gr beans (2 cups), Pinto or Mayocoba
½ onion, peeled
1 clove garlic
10 cups water
First you have to clean and rinse the beans, checking well for stones. Remove any beans that float. If you want to reduce the cooking time, soak the beans in water for a night. It is important that you do NOT add salt when boiling the beans. Place the beans and the water in a large heavy pot or pressure cooker. Cook for one and a half hour in a regular pot or 30-40 minutes in a pressure cooker. Reduce the cooking time if you have previously soaked the beans. Check if the beans are cooked. You should be able to mush them between your fingers. Remove the onion and garlic and add salt to taste.
How to make Frijoles Puercos?
Frijoles puercos are a favorite dish for birthday parties and ‘taquizas’ taco buffets in Sinaloa. Just like other specialties, every city has their own way of preparing it. Mazatlan’s frijoles puercos have a secret ingredient: canned sardines! I thought it was an urban legend, because who would put canned sardines in beans?!? So before getting started, I had to check it out with my local foodie friends. And guess what: nine of the ten people I asked actually put canned sardines or canned tuna, because “it really improves the flavor”. Now my kids weren’t particularly excited about trying frijoles puercos with sardines, “I’m definitely not trying it”. And they ended up LOVING IT!
Getting people talking about local recipes, is the easiest thing to do. Because who wouldn’t want to share their favorite flavor. So several friends passed on their grandmother’s, maid’s or their own ultimate recipe. And these recipes are pretty much the same as the recipe in Doña Cuca Cardenas’ cookbook, just with canned sardines or tuna.
A special Thank-You to Jesus, the owner of Cenaduria Chayito. He didn’t just share the recipe with me, but he also invited me into the restaurant to see how it’s done. I felt so humbled that he opened the doors of their kitchen and I could see the magic myself.
FRIJOLES PUERCOS (serves 8-12 people)
1 kilo (4 cups) Mayocoba beans, cooked and ground
¼ kilo pork lard
¼ kilo bacon, diced
¼ kilo Mexican chorizo
2/3 cup white onion, chopped
1 can chipotle chile (or any spicy sauce like pickled chili, salsa ranchera, etc)
¼ kilo Chihuahua cheese, grated
Optional: 1 small can tuna or sardines, drained and shredded
Heat the lard in a large heavy pot. Fry the bacon and chopped onion until browned. Add the chorizo, continue frying and incorporate the canned fish as well as the chipotle chili. Use the kitchen spoon to mash up the fish and the chipotle. Finally add the ground beans and continue stirring. At this point lower the heat and make sure to keep stirring, otherwise it will burn. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. The beans should have a thick consistency. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Serve hot with tortilla chips or on a flour tortilla.
Enjoy!!! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the canned sardines!
One thing I remember clearly from my days as a young bride in Mexico, is my mother in law swiftly introducing me to the Do’s and Don’ts of married life. Many had to do with making sure my husband was well-fed. Funny thing is that he was a much better cook than me and I was just taking my first baby steps into Mexican cuisine.
The essence of “well-fed” in a Mexican context means having tortillas, beans and salsa on the table at all meals. And even better if those tortillas were made from scratch. In the good old days tortilla bakeries (or: tortillerias) weren’t as plentiful as now and if you lived far away from one, you had to make your tortillas……. by hand….. every meal. Many young girls would learn how to make tortillas at a young age, helping out their mothers with this daily chore. So by the time they were the marriageable age, knowing how to make tortillas was a given. Decades went by and many girls started to go to school, making household skills less important. Modern life has led to only few knowing how to make tortillas.
The tortilla universe can be divided in two kingdoms: the corn tortilla (tortilla de maiz) and the flour tortilla (tortilla de harina). Corn tortillas are preferred in central and southern Mexico, while flour tortillas are mostly available in northern Mexico. Tortilla bakeries are also divided: you can’t find flour tortillas in a corn tortilla bakery and vice versa. Mazatlan is luckily home to both types of Tortillerias.
Next month my husband and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. As a test to see if I’ve been worthy of being a Mrs, I made flour tortillas using the cookbook of Doña Cuca Cardenas. To make sure I got the insider tricks, I also visited a local flour tortilla bakery ‘Sunny’. They said the secret of a good flour tortilla lies in the kneading of the dough. So I gave it my all, working that elbow grease. Another piece of advice was: making perfectly round tortillas by hand is almost impossible. Thank goodness I knew this beforehand…
Flour tortillas are great for cheese quesadillas or for burritos. In the north of Mexico we love to fill them with scrambled eggs or shredded beef jerky (‘machaca’).
TORTILLAS DE HARINA
1 kilo or 2.2 pound white flour
200 gr or 7 oz lard
1 tsp salt
2 ¾ cup hot water
Put the flour in a large bowl and add the lard. Mix with your hands until it gets a crumbly consistency. Dissolve the salt in the hot water and add it to the flour mixture. Stir vigorously with a wooden spatula, then knead the dough with your hands for 5 minutes. Make 31 little balls, cover with cling film and leave to rest on a cookie tray for 30 minutes. Then roll out each ball with a rolling pin. Heat a skillet without oil or ‘comal’ (tortilla pan) at medium heat and grill the tortillas on both sides until slightly brown. Make sure to not overcook them, otherwise they will be crisp. Let the tortillas cool down on a tea towel or a rack. You can store the tortillas in a plastic bag in the fridge and keep them for up to a month.
MAKES 31 FLOUR TORTILLAS
BUEN PROVECHO!!! ENJOY YOUR MEAL!!!
Maaike Hoekstra has lived in Mexico for over 15 years. She is passionate about Mexican culture and food. Here are the stories and recipes she finds along the way.