Saturday, June 20, 2009

Baby Steps: Black Beans in a Crock Pot

I tried my hand at cooking the other night (as opposed to baking, an entirely different category in my mind), with mediocre results. We recently traveled to Humboldt Co., CA, a 12-hour drive. On the way home I read a copy of The North Coast Journal pretty much cover-to-cover. Within its pages I found a relatively simple crock pot recipe for Justine Shaw’s Grad Student Black Beans. I like mole sauce, and this sounded similar, so I figured why not.

First off, I found the recipe confusing as hell. It begins with a list of ingredients, but then there are a couple of ingredients listed later in the description of the recipe. The author (of the article, not the recipe) added a few of his own ingredients, but didn’t share how that changed the original recipe, or if it even did. Dark beer and strong coffee sounds good in black beans, right? Probably one of the reasons I paid attention to this recipe in the first place. (So why didn’t I add either one?)

I decided right away to make just half a recipe, figuring the likelihood of a less-than-satisfactory result was pretty high, and I didn’t want to waste a bunch of food.

So I measured out one pound of black beans and began their soak in my small crock pot. We eat dinner late because of my work schedule, so when I got up to let the dog out around 6a the next morning, I turned the crock pot on low.

When I finally got out of bed around 9:30a, I read the recipe again and realized I was supposed to have added everything on the list to the soaking pot of beans. No big loss, it still had another eight hours to stew, so I added them late. I added one dried “hot” chile, seeds removed, and just under two chipotle chiles with a spoonful of adobo sauce, plus everything else on the list, divided by two.

By 4p it was still really fluid, more like soup. And it was SPICY. I like spicy food, but I could tell this was a bit much, and I hadn’t even added chipotle sauce. At 6p it was still like soup, so I turned up the heat and took off the lid, and decided to add another chunk of Abuelita (Mexican hot chocolate base).

Dinner was at 8:30p. By this time it had thickened a LOT.

Too much. But it tasted all right, albeit a bit spicy. The chocolate was a nice variation on basic black beans, at least. It could have used a big spoonful of sour cream on top, but I’m on a diet and that’s not on the list. It was bad enough I splurged on a few tortilla chips. (And the sugar in the chocolate base.)

I’m not sure whether I’ll make this again, but the experiment was worthwhile, and it served its purpose – to relieve my personal chef of his daily job at least once in a while, and get me more familiar with the other side of the cooking spectrum.


  1. Juline, trying to get a grasp on the flavor. Is it like a Mole' with black beans? I know you're not sure whether you'll make it again...but am really considering trying it.

  2. You know, it's been a long time since I've had mole, but that's the best way I can describe it. It is spicy, though, so next time I'd probably leave out one of the chipotle peppers. I like heat, but not when it takes over.

  3. Oops, sorry. I must've read over that in the first paragraph. /rolls eyes. I'm giving it a try tomorrow...less one chipotle. We'll see!