My friend Christopher Ann has a story for everything. Sometimes it's exhausting but it's always entertaining and the food tastes better when there's a tale to tell.
For years she told me about her famous Charro Beans and how she squeezed the recipe out of a disgruntled waiter. I never got around to making them but she swore these were the best charro beans to be had, so when she told me she was coming to California, I knew we had to set aside some time to make these famous beans.
Well, we had a little dinner party and everyone agreed on the superiority of Chris' charros beans. Despite a few steps that I normally would discourage, and perhaps because of these steps, they were great. So great, in fact, I asked her if I could repeat the instructions here for you. With a loving look in her eyes that comes from her grandmotherly heart, she said, "No way! The recipe is mine!"
Chris is an excellent writer and an inspirational cook and I have little doubt she'll have her own cookbook one day, so I don't blame her. In its place, I can offer James W. Peyton's more traditional version from his La Cocina de la Frontera cookbook.
Frojoles Rancheros or Frijoles a la Charra
1 pound of Pinto, Vaquero, Rio Zape, or other Western style bean, cooked in the Rancho Gordo method. 3 pieces bacon, chopped 1/2 cup onion 2 cloves garlic 2 serrano chiles 2 medium-size tomatoes 1/2 teapsoon Mexican oregano
Prepare the beans until they are about 30 minutes from being done.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add and fry the bacon until it is just beginning to brown. Add the onion, garlic and chiles and continue cooking, stirring often, until the onion is well browned. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook 5 minutes more. Add the cooked vegetables to the beans and continue cooking until they are tender. Serve the beans in bowls with the liquid and vegetables.
I can tell you I cooked the bacon and threw out all but 2 tablespoons of the fat to fry the onion. It was a mistake. If you're going to go for it, really go for it.