Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Going Back To My Roots: Beans and Cornbread

We had this at least once a week at my house growing up.  Needless to say I got really tired of it.  Didn't eat it for at least  15 years after I left home.  My husband has a greater appreciation for true home cookin' than I do.  My response is, "If you want to eat that, go to my mother's house."  But awhile back I actually thought Beans and Cornbread might be good for dinner. I guess the 15 year wait was long enough.  So I saved the leftover ham from Thanksgiving and Christmas and froze it for a snowy day.  This is the third time since Christmas we have had beans and cornbread.  It's just too good.  I don't think I will get burned out on them ever again.  It's a simple preparation, and the end result is truly comforting.  Plus the kitchen smells great as this simmers on the stove for a couple of hours.  A perfect cold day or Sunday dinner!  I decided to put the recipes and techniques for the beans and cornbread together, because you really can't have one without the other!
Rinse your dried beans,
check for rocks or other debris,
then place in water and soak overnight.
The Line-Up for the Beans!
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven
Add chopped veggies and herbs and spices
Add ham bone and saute 5 minutes
or until veggies are soft.
Add garlic and saute 1 minute more.
Add chicken stock, bring to a boil,
then cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours.
See how yummy this is starting
to look after 1 1/2 hours?
Add the pinto beans and cook for about an hour. 
Season with salt and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
At this point, I start my cornbread. 
That way it will be just out of the oven
warm when the beans are ready.
The Cornbread Line-Up,
I forgot to tell you 1 cup of "sweet milk"
(regular milk) was invited.
Put shortening in the skillet and place
in oven while it pre-heats.  This skillet
belonged to my Great-Grandmother. 
I'm not sure exactly how old it is, but she was
in her 90s in 1974.  I love this skillet. 
It has such a great seasoning and patina on it.
To dry ingredients add:  1 cup buttermilk,
1 cup regular milk

Add 1 egg

And melted butter.  Mix well.
Pour batter into hot skillet.
Don't freak out.  The batter will bubble
and sizzle and start to cook.
Bake until golden brown.

Serve topped with Chow-Chow relish!
Beans and Cornbread

For the beans:

1 ham bone (See Note)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound dried pinto beans (rinsed, picked over, soaked overnight and drained)
8 cups chicken stock (I use Better Than Bouillon!)
salt to taste

In a large Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the bell pepper, onion, celery, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, oregano and thyme.  Stir to combine and add ham bone.  Saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute for an additional minute.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours.  Stir occasionally.  After 1 1/2 hours, add the pinto beans.  Continue simmering for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the beans are almost cooked.  Season with salt and cook until beans are done and the ham left on the bone is falling off, about 30 minutes. 

Prep Time:  Approximately 20 minutes (plus soak beans overnight)  Cook Time:  Approximately 3 hours

Note:  I usually have a ham bone in my freezer, but I'm pretty sure you can talk to your butcher if you need one!

This is the point I begin my cornbread, when the beans are in their last 30 minutes of cooking. 

For the cornbread:

1 tablespoon shortening, bacon drippings, or lard
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup regular milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place the shortening, bacon drippings or lard in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven while it is pre-heating.  In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt and baking soda.  Add the buttermilk and "sweet" milk.  (If your a Southerner.  Otherwise it's just your regular milk) Combine.  Add egg and melted butter, stirring until just moistened.  Pour into greased hot skillet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Serve with butter or pinto beans!

Prep Time:  Approximately 10 minutes     Cook Time:  Approximately 25 minutes

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