Brown Food Does Make It, Pt. 1

“Brown shoes don´t make it.” (Frank Zappa)

One of the reasons I am not a great chef is, well, that I haven´t put in the years of hard training and education necessary to become a great chef. Another reason is that I truly, with all my heart, love brown food.

I not fond of dainty little herbs on top of my food, especially when their sole function is to give color (and daintiness) to the dish. I don´t mind some roughly chopped parsley if the dish calls for it, but that´s about as far as I´ll go in the garnish department. Food photographers have a tendency to hate this approach, but hey, too bad.

My theory is that if it´s on the plate it´s meant to be eaten. The only exceptions to this rule are bones (which are usually there to increase the flavor of the dish) and sinewy animal parts, present to keep the animal´s other parts connected. There may be a couple more exceptions but you get the picture.

Not being a great chef is actually kind of nice. You don´t have to try and convince everyone that French food is better than the rest of the food from around the world. You are allowed to cook in street clothes instead of a white uniform and pope hat, and you might even have free from work in the weekends.

I´m a pretty decent cook though, and that´s a heck of a lot better than being a bad cook, and way better than just not being interested in cooking. Pretty decent cooks actually make some of the best food around. The best burgers and pizzas and tacos (and on and on and on) are often made by pretty decent cooks, and that´s good enough for me. And guess what: Many of these cooks are extremely fond of brown food.

Today´s dish is all about beans. Brown pinto beans. These are my favorite Mexican beans and they are dynamite. A few months ago I made a revised version of these beans for a good friend of mine. As part of her birthday celebration she presented friends with different tasks. Mine was called The Vegan Challenge, not because she “goes vegan”, rather just to present me with a challenge. It hurt not putting bacon or ham hocks in the beans, but they were still pretty tasty.

Frijoles a la Charra, the non-vegan version

1 lb pinto beans, rinsed well in cold water

5 oz bacon, cut into 3-4 pieces

4 quarts cold water

5 oz bacon, cut into small cubes

2 Tbs cooking oil (such as sunflower)

1 onion, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 fresh jalapeños, stems removed and minced

1 Tbs chili powder

2 ts ground cumin

2 ts ground paprika

1 ts finely-ground black pepper


  1. Put the beans and the chunks of bacon in a large pot. Cover with the water (no, the beans are not to soak overnight).
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the beans until just tender (about 1 1/2 hours). Drain (but keep!) the water. Throw away the chunks of bacon.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  4. Add the bacon and fry until crisp. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeños and cook for about two more minutes on medium heat.
  5. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika and pepper and cook for about 30 seconds more.
  6. Drain the fat from the pan and add the onion and bacon mixture to the beans.
  7. Add enough of the cooking water to cover the beans (they shouldn´t be overly soupy).
  8. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and season with salt. Do not overcook the beans.

– If you need to add water while the beans are cooking it is important to use hot water to avoid the beans splitting. Yes, it is ok to soak the beans overnight, though I prefer not to. This will of course reduce the cooking time.


Her er oppskriftene på norsk:

Frijoles a la Charra, den ikke-veganer-versjonen

500 g pinto-eller annen type tørkede brune bønner, renset i kaldt vann

150 g bacon eller sideflesk, skåret i 3-4 biter

4 l kaldt vann

150 g bacon, skåret i små terninger

2 ss solsikke- eller rapsolje

1 løk, skrelt og hakket

4 hvitløkfedd, skrelte og hakkede

2 ferske jalapeño-chili, renset og hakkede

1 ss chilipulver

2 ts malt spisskummen

2 ts malt paprika

1 ts malt sort pepper


  1. Ha bønnene og sideflesk i en stor gryte. Dekk over med vann (bønnene skal ikke ligge i vann over natten).
  2. Kok opp, reduser varmen og la bønnene begynne å småkok til bønnene er passe møre (ca. 1,5 time). Sil av (og behold!) kokevannet, og kast bacon- eller sidefleskstykkene.
  3. Varm oljen i en stekepanne.
  4. Stek bacon i olje til sprøstekt. Tilsett løk, hvitløk og chili, og stek videre i 2 minutter på medium varme.
  5. Tilsett chilipulver, spisskummen, paprika og pepper og stek videre i 1/2 minutt.
  6. Sil av fettet og hell bacon- og løkblandingen i bønnegryten sammen med bønnene.
  7. Ha i nok av kokevannet fra bønnene til at du har fått en bra konsistens (skal ikke være ”suppeaktig”).
  8. Kok forsiktig opp, reduser varmen, og smak til med salt. Ikke kok bønnene for lenge.


– Det kan være at du trenger litt mer vann etterhvert. Bruk kun veldig varmt vann slik at bønnene ikke sprekker.

– Ja, det går an å legge bønnene i bløt om natten, men jeg foretrekker å begynne kokingen med de tørkede bønnene. Jeg innbiller meg at jeg får en bedre smak og konsistens. Men, hvis du vil bruke mindre tid til kokingen så er det heller ikke farlig å legge bønnene i vann over natten.


2 thoughts on “Brown Food Does Make It, Pt. 1”

  1. I had to make beans just like these vegan too, and found to my great surprise that it was possible to make them just as tasty. The trick – skip the meat and add caramelized onion and some good flavourful beer. This adds a complexity of taste and “meatyness” that complement the pintoes beautifully.

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