Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Recipe: Simple Mexican-themed Meal

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A simple dish like pinto beans can quickly and easily become a hearty, tasty, complex-flavored dish with the addition of a few ingredients. Seen here, are the beans with all extra ingredients added, just before cooking in the pressure cooker. When pressure cooking beans, it’s NOT necessary to soak them. Simply rinse them off, throw ’em in the pot, fasten the lid, and cook away! They’re ready in a jiffy! How long’s a “jiffy”? About 15-20 minutes +/- depending upon how well you like ’em cooked. No more soaking overnight baloney!

Beans and cornbread.

There you have it!

How much more simple could it be, eh?

And honestly, that’s a meal unto itself.

If you wanted, you could add some rice to it, either separately, or mixed in.

But, we’ll just concentrate on the two, for now.

So… here’s what you’ll need for the beans & cornbread.

Are you ready!?!

• Pinto beans
• Cornmeal
• eggs
• buttermilk and/or soured milk
• canned corn
• ground beef
• oil/lard
• LARGE can crushed/diced tomatoes
• salt
• black pepper
• Badia brand “Complete” seasoning
• bacon
• baking powder
• oregano
• paprika
• cumin
• garlic – fresh, or powder
• onion (player’s choice – red, white, yellow, sweet)
• red pepper flakes and/or cayenne
• cheese – mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, or PepperJack
• 10-inch iron skillet
• coffee
• cinnamon
• coriander
• smoke flavoring/seasoning (Colgin brand ONLY)
• Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins ONLY)
• Pressure cooker

NOTE: Milk can be clabbered/curdled using a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice (both are acid). Soured milk should not be discarded, and can be used in cooking, in lieu of buttermilk or milk, and can be added to buttermilk.

If it seems like a lot of ingredients… IT IS!
And, it’s WELL WORTH IT!
Besides… any cook worth their salt will use numerous spices, herbs, and seasonings… because NOBODY BUT NOBODY enjoys bland food.

Make the cornbread:

2 cups meal, 2 eggs, mix in salt (about a teaspoon +/-), black pepper, onion, garlic, 2 teaspoons baking powder, canned corn, ground beef (already browned), 1-2 cups cheese, cumin, buttermilk/soured milk (enough to make a semi-thick pourable slurry)

• Melt lard/heat oil (4 Tablespoons=1/4 cup +/-), or may use grease from cooking bacon, and/or ground beef, in skillet, circulate around in pan – make sure it’s good’n hot!

• Pour grease/oil/lard into cornbread slurry, mix thoroughly

• Pour slurry into skillet

• Bake 425-450ºF until top is beautifully light brown

• When ready, remove from oven, invert pan on wooden cutting board to release cornbread; bottom should be slightly darker than top, and crispy

NOTE: DO NOT USE ANY OTHER SKILLET BUT IRON.
Why not?
Other skillets often have plastic-type handles which will melt or deteriorate in the oven, or have toxic coatings (yes, Teflon is toxic, and is made using PFOS, PFAS, PFOA – the so-called “forever chemicals”). IRON DOES NOT. Neither does stainless steel. But iron is naturally non-stick because its “seasoning” (non-stick character) is improved by use. When iron is “seasoned,” the oil/grease/fat is baked into and onto the porous iron, and forms a thin, polymerized, non-stick layer.

Why it works:
Oil/grease/lard primarily makes things crumbly;
• Eggs are protein that act as binders;
• Buttermilk/soured milk is acidic, and works with baking powder (cream of tartar + baking soda) to cause mix to rise in conjunction with temperature (cream of tartar is acidic and activated by heat & liquid, hence the “double acting” on some labels);
• Cheese is a protein+fat also acting as a binder & flavoring, plus having some fat;
• Onion/garlic is for flavoring, which when cooked becomes sweet;
• Salt is preservative & flavoring (one of a handful of “basic” flavors – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and meaty aka “umami”);
• Black pepper & cumin, seasoning/flavoring exclusively.#Cornbread - h

If you’re feeling froggy, here’s a great article in Scientific American from December 2013 on WHY baking power does its thing in cornbread: Scrumptious Science: How Does Baking Powder Make Cornbread Fluffy?

Make the beans:

1.) Rinse beans thoroughly in a colander with running water,
2.) Place in pressure cooker with plenty of water & salt, coffee,
3.) Dice onion,
4.) Cut bacon into bits & cook until done,
5.) Sauté onion in bacon grease ,
6.) pour grease, bacon & onions into pot, along with seasonings, including:
• Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke flavoring, fresh/garlic powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, Badia brand Complete seasoning, hot pepper/powder (cayenne, pequin, jalapeño, etc.), cinnamon, coriander, and LARGE can of crushed/diced tomatoes

Cook on HIGH pressure for 20-30 minutes; may remove from cooking & use quick release pressure (running water over pot top) to check for doneness & flavoring; if necessary/desired, cook longer, and/or adjust seasoning

Why it works:
Like Italian-styled foods, Mexican-themed dishes have complexity of flavor. But Indian cooking? WOWSAH! It’s the undisputed KING of complexity in flavorings! So, working toward complexity of flavor requires using numerous seasoning ingredients.

• Tomatoes add acid and a slight umami (meaty) flavor
• Bacon adds meaty/salty/smoky flavor
• Garlic (when cooked) adds sweetness
• Oregano adds aroma with pungent, peppery bitterness and slight minty undertones
• Worcestershire sauce adds umami/meaty flavor
• Cumin adds aroma and a slightly bittersweet/earthy character
• Cayenne/pequin/jalapeño, etc., add warmth/heat
• Coriander adds a floral fragrance with a musky/citrusy flavor character, enhancing  savoriness
• Coffee also adds acid, and provides an “undertone” flavor character that’s rich and full
• Bacon grease adds a depth of character and body (plus, fats/oils/grease are necessary for the body to utilize vitamins A, D, E and K – the fat-soluble vitamins – and provide a sense of satiety/fullness)

Serve:

Slice cornbread, may butter, or not, place in bowl, put beans & stock/juice over top, use spoon to eat.

Oh… on the volumes of ingredients, a 2-pound bag of beans, and as for the other seasoning ingredients, each one typically is less than or equal to a tablespoon +/-. Cooking is “player’s choice,” meaning, do it the way it makes you happy.

And if you’ve never failed at a recipe, or burned anything cooking… you’re NOT trying hard enough. Like any other endeavor in life, with cooking, you learn by doing -and- by making mistakes. Best part about cooking, is that you get to eat your mistakes. So, have at it!

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