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It’s been a crazy sort of few weeks around our house. Which made it a great time to work on a new slow cooker meal that’s up and cooking a big pot of dinner in not too many minutes at all. Isn’t that how slow cooker recipes should be?! Welcome SLOW COOKER BLACK BEANS WITH CHORIZO AND HAM….just in time for November football games and holiday gatherings…or for just the two of you with a few quarts in the freezer for later. Move over chili, there’s another great pot in the house easy to customize with your very favorite usual suspect toppings, including crushed tortilla chips, red onions, queso fresco or Cheddar, lime crema, tomatoes, avocado, sliced jalapeños, or….
But….why has it been crazy? For quite a while, we’ve barely held our heads above water. Good pun, but you’ll need to know the story. Sad, but true.
We came home from church — was it the 15th of October?? No, it was the 8th; I’ve totally lost track of time–only to find the sewer had backed up into our basement. No, in case you’re wondering, it wasn’t all stinky-winky and it didn’t seem to be too terribly bad. I mean, all I did was leave the washer on while we were away….a big no-no, I know. BUT!! I’ve done it dozens of times before, right? Who knew? We have gorgeous but basic ceramic tile down there, perfect for lower levels, and three decent, large wool rugs for color and warmth. It looked like a good time to set the rugs outdoors to dry before sending them out for cleaning and then mop with a little bleach. Even the baseboards didn’t look wet.
“Just in case,” my husband and best sous, Dave, said, “We’d better call the insurance folks.” Eyes rolling, I agreed, though it seemed excessively cautious. This would take time, thought I. I had other fish to fry that day. I could have it mopped and dried before they arrived. In fact, the floors seemed to be drying already (see above photo); remember we’re at 6800 feet altitude where your coffee can evaporate before you can drink it all. A few hours later, the floors were sanitized and dried by insurance and heaven-sent cleanup folks and there were 5 huge, industrial fans scattered around the rooms, each sounding like a 737 at take-off. That’s that, we said. We can stand the noise for a day or two and we’ll be sure it’s all dry. Huh. They were there a week.
Next day, more people come traipsing through, followed by an even bigger bunch of inspectors. “Well, you’ll need some wall board replaced,” one ventured. “Great,” I thought, ” It needed painting anyway. Better them than us! And all free!” (I had forgotten about the years of insurance payments already.) “Not so fast,” said another while his buddy drilled some holes in the walls. (Holes??!!) “Not sure, but I’d say you have asbestos. When was this house built? “1973.” “We’ll have to abate that. These walls will all need to come down.” (– nearly all in a walk-out basement of 1,200 square feet, including our bedroom, 3 closets, the family room along with a nearly new bathroom we’d finally updated, Dave’s office, and our laundry room …hello, Christmas decor and boxes of American Girl dolls along with a thousand stuffed bears– ok, maybe 100) “Down??!! What do you mean, down?!” “You’ll have to store your belongs for at least a couple of months.” “Months?!!” “And you won’t be able to come downstairs for at least two weeks while the rooms are sealed off for asbestos.” “Weeks?!” “Oh…and the ceiling will also have to be redone.” “Ceiling? It didn’t get wet, I swear.” And on it went. You get the picture. We set aside a few (10?) barely wet items to dry and started the long business of packing four rooms into a storage pod, all the while gathering what we thought we’d need upstairs perhaps past Christmas. Not too long after Christmas, we’d be leaving for Hawaii. Would I need to grab my warm weather cruise clothes? It was still hot outside on October 9!
Ok, I’m done. But there’s just room to tell you — or show you — all about this pot of beany goodness I’ve been thinking about making for absolutely weeks but only just got around to. I nearly always have a container of ham and beans in the freezer. I make a 6-quart slow cooker full 3 or 4 times per year and it’s sort of our emergency, don’t-feel-like-cooking dinner. I kept thinking about how good it might be to try another bean besides navy or great northern. Maybe not pintos, as I make a pot of pinto beans anytime I’m making Tex-Mex food. Black sounded good and why not with chorizo? In fact, I scouted chorizo sausage several times and asked meat managers which brand wasn’t so very spicy. I like spicy but it doesn’t like me. A little kick is more my speed. Besides, if you’re cooking for a big group, it’s best to let them add a little hotness as desired. None of the meat folks were terribly hopeful. Chorizo, despite my research to the contrary, remained stubbornly ultra spicy. (Online, there was a variety less hot called dulce; I couldn’t find any.) So I bought fresh chorizo but still couldn’t commit. It stayed in the freezer. One day, I had some dried Spanish chorizo (not too hot at all!) served on a plate of salmon and vegetables at a local swank spot. Yes, it was my 70th birthday since you must know. And while chorizo and salmon seem an unlikely coupling, they were cozy and delicious together. Soon after, I found myself tossing dried Spanish chorizo in the cart at the store. I could try this. ( I think it’s called a chub of sausage. Is that right? Sounds weird.) There was only one thing. It was kind of expensive ($13.99) and there was only a little over 5 ounces of it. Not enough for two-pounds of beans, I thought and if I buy two, I’ve about broken the bank for… a pot of beans?!! Why not include some ham I had stored in the freezer right near that fresh chorizo? I’d cut the costs and infuse a little smoky edge to the mix. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.
While the booming and pounding crashes of walls being torn down continued ad nauseam beneath my feet (my house, my house!) and with the workers crawling in and out of a basement window in order to shower as they leave (asbestos), this simple pot of filling comfort food came together in the kitchen. Sandra, the abatement boss, came to the front door with, “Really smells good out here!” And it did.
It began like this… no need to sauté any meat or vegetables. Everything goes in just as it is.
Then, 6 hours later on high, it looked like this:
Served with any toppings you like a la chili or posole, I went with crushed tortilla chips, lime wedges, chopped red onions (you could use pickled onions), lime crema (recipe included below), sliced radishes, and shreds of Oaxaca cheese. Later, I tried some sharp Cheddar and liked it just as well. Queso fresco or Cotija (a bit saltier Mexican cheese) are other options.
And while I’m partial to a big cast iron pan of cornbread and lots of butter, next time I’m trying warmed tortillas or I might include quesadillas, especially if there are kids involved….
It’s cool beans that everyone can fix their bowl just as they like it when you try this:
SLOW COOKER Black Beans with Chorizo and Ham
- 2 -pounds (32 oz/907 g) black beans, sorted and rinsed. Soak overnight in water to cover plus two inches or boil for 2 minutes and rest, covered for an hour. You can skip the soaking if you like as black beans actually do ok without it.
- 1 1/4 cups (8.5 oz/246 g) diced ham
- 1 1/4 cups (5 oz/150 g) diced Spanish chorizo, casings removed
- 1- quart (32 oz/907 g) low-sodium chicken broth
- 1½ quarts (48 oz/1360g) water or more as needed as beans cook
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 large onions, diced
- 1 each: celery stalk with leaves and large carrot, cut into small dice
- ½ cup diced red bell pepper
- 4- ounce (113 g) can diced green chiles, drained (optional)
- 3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- Hot Sauce, added after cooking (optional)
- Garnishes: your choice —hot sauce, red wine vinegar, minced jalapeño, minced cilantro, diced white onion, wedges of lime, diced avocado, diced fresh tomato, sliced radishes, tortilla chips, queso fresco, grated Cheddar, Oaxaca cheese, lime crema (see notes below) or plain sour cream, etc.
- Add all ingredients except hot sauce and garnishes to a 6-quart slow cooker; stir. Cook on high 6-7 hours or until beans are tender, checking halfway through to add a cup or two water if the mixture is very thick. Your beans, if cooked at sea level, could be done sooner. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a splash or two of hot sauce if you like. Serve hot with garnishes of your choice.
- Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days or in the freezer for 4-6 months.
DOES THAT LOOK LIKE A LONG LIST OF INGREDIENTS? Perhaps. But with the exception of dicing the chorizo and ham, everything else is pretty much dumped in. This easy meal prep is made even simpler if you throw the onions, celery, carrot, and bell pepper in the food processor for chopping.
CHANGE IT UP:
- Make half. Sure. You can still use the 6-quart or could try the 4-quart smaller slow cooker. The rule of thumb is to not fill the pot more than 1/2 or 2/3 full.
- Make it vegan or vegetarian. Sure. Check out my other slow cooker black bean recipe for ideas. (Or use vegan chorizo and vegetable broth in place of chicken) See above photo. Beans are pretty, aren’t they?
- Make it spicy. Sure. I’d try the fresh chorizo idea (cook/drain it before adding it to the pot) or perhaps add extra hot sauce or crushed red pepper at the end. If you put too much heat in at the beginning of a slow cooker meal, you can get some unpleasant bitterness, though minced jalapeño probably won’t cause that problem. If only “some like it hot,” use the listed ingredients and add a couple of different bottles of hot sauce and a small dish of fresh, minced or pickled jalapeño, at the table.
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LIFE GOES ON:
Son Sean made my birthday cake–a lovely lightly lemon cheesecake topped with ganache and a layer white chocolate. My life might now be complete now that my kids can bake my birthday cakes!
Enjoy November. Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen; it means a lot to me,