Beans and Cornbread


A friend told me recently that one of her fondest childhood memories is of my mother’s beans.  I, too, recall them tenderly.  They were wonderfully sweet, with delightful chunks of bacon, and she made them every 4th of July.  They made an excellent potluck dish, and could feed an army.  In fact, they could feed several armies, and therein lies the secret to the nostalgia.  What brings a smile to my friend’s face, is not, sadly, the memory of excellent flavor, but of sheer quantity combined with childish ingenuity and a large supply of firecrackers.

You see, after everyone had eaten their fill of my mother’s beans, there remained a truly heroic amount left in the pot.  We children noticed this, and having exhausted all of the entertainment lighting firecrackers in the driveway could provide, we decided to see what would happen if we tried to blow up something else.

My mother found out, and never made beans again.

Having received two types of enticing beans from my CSA this year, I decided to concoct a tribute to my mother and summer potlucks past and took my inspiration from one of my favorite cooking sites, The Pioneer Woman.  Ordinarily I just drool over her delicious recipes and stellar photography, but her recipe for spicy beans inspired me to get off my duff and make something special out of my legumes.

I often think I can’t make these long-simmering recipes on a weeknight, but then I realized I can, I just need to spread the cooking out over two days.  On Monday we had nice, simple sandwiches while the beans simmered, and then on Tuesday, after only 30 minutes more of cooking, we were ready to break out the beans.

Spicy Beans

mildly adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

  • 4 cups dry beans (I used black-eyed peas and cranberry beans)
  • 1 smoked ham shank or whole ham hock
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 diced bell peppers
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sliced jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

Rinse beans and place in a stock pot or dutch oven with the ham shank and water to cover by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and forget about it for 2 hours.  Check the water level occasionally and add more if necessary.

Add the onions, peppers (bell and jalapeño),  and garlic.  Re-cover the pot and simmer for another two hours.  (At this point, it was time for bed for me, so I gave the beans a rest overnight, and finished the next day)

Add salt, chili powder, and pepper to your beans, and then slap the lid back on to simmer for 20-30 more minutes.  Meanwhile, mix up a batch of your favorite cornbread.  I like Mark Bittman’s, because I like everything Mark Bittman does.  With any luck, your cornbread and beans will get done at just about the same time.

Slice your cornbread through the middle and make a nice bed on your plate, then ladle some beans over, and top with a nice dollop of sour cream (these are spicy beans, after all).  Then, listen to this song.

The next day, you may be surprised to find you still have an enormous pot of beans.  Don’t despair, and put away the fire crackers.  Simply spread out a nice bed of tortilla chips, top with beans, a diced tomato, half a diced avocado, cheddar cheese and/or queso fresco, and some pickled jalapeños.  Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and beans are warmed through.  Then, top with more sour cream, and enjoy!

Still got beans?  Of course you do!  For my part, tomorrow I’m planning to make a nice breakfast burrito featuring beans, beans, beans!  After that, I’m out of ideas.  Help me out, guys.  What else can I do with beans? Help me make my mother proud!  (I really did love your beans, Mom.)

One Response to Beans and Cornbread

  1. […] and black bean salad; a green chili cheeseburger; beans and cornbread; summer salad with pistachios, mint and peas; and cheesy grits with green tomato jam. » […]

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