For as long as I can remember, this has been a staple in our house. When my mom made it, the cooking fat of choice was bacon or lard and the beans were mashed with butter. I have made some healthier changes, but it is still the go-to dip (with homemade tortilla or pita chips) for television-watching (usually for the guys glued to sports), card-or game-playing, or even for a late night easy-to-put-together burrito, taco, or tostada. My mom had a wonderful electric bean crock that she used to serve it in – kept the dip warm and cheesy. I have been looking for one just like it to no avail. If you know of one, let me know.
When we were last in San Francisco, I did my usual run to the Rancho Gordo stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. I bought many 1 pound packages of their various heirloom beans – borlotti, yellow eyes, Christmas limas, and on and on the list goes. (Check out their website ranchogordo.com for the complete listing of heirloom beans, grains and rices, herbs and spices, dried corn, and chiles and chile powders – their products are sensational). I am down to just a couple of packages in the larder so used the one remaining Santa Maria Pinquito Beans for this. Rancho Gordo calls them “the classic pink bean for California tri-tip barbecues.” I found that they made a deeply flavored dip.
Although a lot of restaurant chefs now seem to forego the presoak for the beans, I stick to my old-fashioned ways. I have had too many a bit more than al dente beans served in restaurants to give up presoaking. I have found, however, that adding salt and/or acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, early in the cooking cycle does not seem to affect the end result as I had been taught. And, although my mom used an electric mixer – which was the absolute wonder of her kitchen – you can quite easily use a food processor fitted with the metal blade to mash the beans – just don’t over-process to a really smooth purée.
Makes about 8 cups
2 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked clean of any debris
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced or to taste
1 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2½ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin or to taste
½ cup olive oil
¾ cup reduced-calorie cheddar cheese or full-flavored if you are not concerned
about such things
⅓ cup nonfat sour cream (and the same for sour cream, richer if you don’t mind)
Tabasco or other hot sauce sauce to taste
Coarse salt to taste
Place the beans in cold water to cover by 1-inch and set aside to soak for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the beans and transfer to a large, heavy bottom saucepan. Add water to cover by 2-inches along with the jalapeño, onions and garlic. Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Place over medium-high heat, stir in the olive oil and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently and adding additional boiling water as needed to keep the beans moist, for about 2 hours or until the beans are very, very soft and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, sour cream, Tabasco and salt to taste.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until the cheese has melted into the beans and the mixture is almost smooth. Taste and, if necessary, season with additional Tabasco and salt.
Scrape into a bowl and serve. Or, set aside to cool.
When cool, transfer to a container (or containers) with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months. If frozen, thaw and reheat before using.