A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beans for lunch again? Yay!

With a little ingenuity, even strongly assertive leftovers like pinto beans cooked with smoked ham hock can be coaxed into revealing different aspects of their personalities.  For three days in a row, we've been revisiting said beans, and have been delighted to experience them each time as though for the first time.  It hasn't seemed like eating leftovers at all — and so far, we haven't tired of the beans.

I hope you haven't tired of hearing about them.  Let me know if my blog is starting to feel like the summer rerun season on TV.

In actuality, this kind of intellectual problem — how can I reconcile the convenience of leftovers with the excitement of presenting a wide variety of flavors? — is what really stimulates me in the kitchen.  Yes, I'm that nerdy.  But, luckily, geekiness in the brain seems so far to have resulted in quite a lot of yumminess in the belly.  

The seed idea for yesterday's lunch — beans, naturally — came from a recent comment left by reader NancyDaQ.   Thanks for the inspiration, Nancy!  We ended up with the most restaurant-y dish so far in my bean odyssey; there were lots of levels to this lunch.

I started out with — do you have to ask?  In case you do, I guess I'd better answer: a container of leftover pinto beans with ham hock.  I discovered that this particular container contained a higher proportion of hock to beans than the previous ones.  Once I'd shredded all the meat off of the bones, I had a 50/50 mixture of meat and beans.  I reheated these in a small saucepan with a couple tablespoons of water.  The water fulfills dual functions: 1) keeps the leftovers from sticking to the pot and 2) allows them to steam until hot.

Meanwhile, I assembled my other ingredients:

chopped cilantro, chopped onion, cheddar cheese, hot hot hot sauce from Vietnamese take-out

I "chopped" the herb right in the bowl you see pictured, using a pair of kitchen shears.  I used a regular small knife to chop the onion.  The cheese (a variety of cheddar similar to an aged Gouda) I grated on the smallest holes of my grater.  The hot hot hot sauce I merely regarded with respect.

Unpictured is the base ingredient for this meal: cornbread.  It would have been great to make my own homemade cornbread, because I like it much less sweet than what is normally available from stores.  But the WF version, sold by weight in slabs, is quite good.  Both Peter and I found the sweetness a bit cloying, but not unpleasant in the finished dish.  I broke a generous chunk of the cornbread into pieces into each individual serving bowl:

I kept in place the extraneous crumbs that ended up on the rims of the bowls, finding it a festive touch.
On top of this, I ladled generous helpings of the heated bean/ham mixture.

Then I strewed the dishes with the grated cheese, moving quickly so that the beans would be hot enough to melt the cheese.  (I also moved quickly so as to get the dishes to the table while still appetizingly hot — not such an easy task when I am trying simultaneously to photograph each step.)

Lastly, I topped each serving with the cilantro, onion, and a little bloop of hot sauce.  The rainbow of colors of this dish hints at the rainbow of flavors to come.

A complexly flavored and succulent dish worthy of company.  In our case, the company was canine, but what could be cozier on a frigid winter afternoon than a plate of warming food and a lap of warming Chihuahua?

I like my life.


  1. Haha! Love the Rerun and Mr. Bean pics.

    Your lunch looks so pretty.

    (Muslin soon, I promise! Still have a lot of February left.)