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A Recipe for Night Beans, in this case vegan borracho night beans

By 7am, this bean magic can feed a small herd of legume lovers. Plus bonus, the kitchen stays clean even though my dreams were dirty.

A Recipe for Night Beans, in this case vegan borracho night beans


Upon tasting these beans, Guillermo said something like, “How am I having Mexico in a kitchen in Arkansas? How am I tasting home?” And I don’t exactly know how he tasted home because I’ve never been to his house or even to Mexico City. But like in most cases, my logic system defaulted to my standard answer: magic. Night bean magic. Some Martinez ancestral shit. Maybe Guillermo Gomez Peña is my cousin.


Adjust according to your edible fears…

  • Water
  • 1 lb bag of dried pinto beans
  • 2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 24 oz of beer–whatever beer that is drinkable and already in residence
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños that smell hot, chopped
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, torn
  • 1 really big onion, chopped, can be big chunks
  • ¾ tsp of liquid smoke
  • 1 tbsp salt plus more upon tasting
  • 1.5 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin

Step One: Relax

Of all the cooking processes I undertake, simmering a pot of beans overnight in a crockpot is undoubtedly the most relaxing and the most magical. Making night beans is an act of faith. Faith in the power of onions and garlic and jalapeño. Faith in my own ability to release, leave both time and the beans unmonitored, unwatched. Faith that my ancestors’ centuries-old culinary brujería still lives in the present, inside my fingers as I chop and inside my taste buds as I lift the spoon to my mouth and blow across the soup before sipping the bean juice. Faith that those very oldest of magics can still transform a humble dried bean.

Only now, in the case of night beans, that brujería lives inside the wonder that is the crockpot! I heap ingredients into an inelegant oblong machine that plugs into the wall where it makes out with electricity, go to bed after taking my sleep-inducing magnesium pill, and by 3am my dreams are rife with the smell of bean soup and all the narratives the scent inspires: visions filled with feast tables covered in great clay pots and lush flowers, all lit by tall glowing candlesticks; my grandma returns to sit at a table with me and scoop beans into her mouth using only a folded tortilla as her utensil; and then suddenly a man appears and he is in love with me because he likes my night beans and we laugh as he touches my arm and I fart in response. Anyway, vivid bean dreams. By 7am, this bean magic can feed a small herd of legume lovers. Plus bonus, the kitchen stays clean even though my dreams were dirty.

I usually make night beans, in this case night borracho beans, when folks are coming over the next evening. The beans cook and swill beer all night, and then they rest all day, just drunk and soaking and waiting to be reheated. Buzzed but not hungover. The longer beans stay buzzed and relaxed, the more their flavors develop. A big ole pot of drunk beans feeds so many. My borracho-style night beans provide. Their abundance eases a persistent concern that I will run out of food before I run out of guests.

Step Two: The dump.

The actual development of your bean recipe is your own intuiting of a personal measurement system. I suggest measuring towards both your preferences and your fears. Good beans need you to consider the flavors that you like, and then they need you to push yourself further down that palate path. Push just to the point where you begin to think,”This could hurt me.” This amount of garlic might have an ill effect on my love life. This number of jalapeños might have a regrettable outcome for my shit portal. This much cumin might embitter my heart for days. When you sense this burgeoning of ingrediential fear, then stop. Add no more. For this recipe, I’ve laid down more socially acceptable measurement imaginings. I encourage you to go harder. Add another half onion. Hell, plop in a serrano. More black paper? Yes, please. But a word to the wise, liquid smoke is some man-made madness. Don’t fuck around with the liquid smoke or your beans are gonna taste like the walls of an old-ass bbq joint.

Off and yet on topic, a note on soaking: I don’t know, y’all. Sometimes I soak my beans in water for like eight hours before I start dumping everything into the crockpot. Sometimes I don’t soak. I can’t really tell the difference between the two methods in terms of flavor development. Maybe the soaked beans are softer? Definitely you can better understand the crockpot-liquid-to-bean-ratio if you soak your beans beforehand. And the soaking water? I’ve read many an article about whether or not to use the soaking water to also cook your beans/reduce flatulence. I’ve done both. Again, I can’t really tell the difference. I fart either way. Just have faith that you will do the right thing for your beans when faced with the decision.

Now the dump. Rough chop the onion. Big pieces that can easily be embraced or pushed away by your spoon. Dump those in the crockpot. Rough chop the jalapeno. Big pieces, about a half-inch thick, that can easily be embraced or pushed away by your spoon. Dump those in the crockpot. Chop your garlic, no need to go all out and mince, just chop it. Dump your garlic in the crockpot. Dump your canned roasted tomatoes in the crockpot. Dump your soaked or unsoakedf beans in the crockpot. Dump your beer in the crockpot. Add your cumin, salt, pepper, and liquid smoke. Tear the cilantro with your hands and throw it in there as well. Not just the leaves, also the stems. Love the stem.

Now fill the crockpot with water until the liquid line flirts with the top of the pot. Turn the crockpot on high and go to bed. Your beans will be ready in the morning. Upon rising, taste the beans. You probably need more salt. Add another teaspoon or so, and then let the beans relax.

A word to the bean binger: if you are tempted to add more beans to the crockpot, to dump in the very big bag that sits on the grocery shelf below the 1 lb bag, know that I myself have given into that temptation on numerous occasions. In this scenario, because you are crowding the pot, definitely soak the beans beforehand because liquid loss will become an issue. You’re gonna run out of cooking juice by 3am. But I get it. You need more beans and less soup. Simply allow your bean dreams to vanish around 3am, get out of bed, taste the existing juice to see if you need more salt (you probably do), dump in another beer or bring the liquid back up to lid-flirtation level with water, stir until the dried out beans on top disappear to the bottom, and then go back to bed. It’ll all be okay in the morning. Cause magic.



Credit: Carra Martinez