Mayan Riviera: Enfrijoladas, tortillas with black beans
I first came across this dish at a cooking class at Latitude 20° restaurant in Puerto Aventuras, taught by Mexican chef Danny. The simplicity of the dish combined with the intense flavour appealed to me instantly and it quickly became a regular dish I prepare both here on the Mayan Riviera and at home, at latitude 50°.
I am generally attracted to simple foods that make the indigenous cuisine of real people in villages around the world. In Italy they call it “cucina povera”, in Mexico “cucina pobre” but essentially the meaning is “poor man’s food”, gender reference notwithstanding. Essentially these cuisines rely on readily available and inexpensive ingredients, in this case corn tortillas and black beans, and combine them with local spices into an easy to prepare and heartily satisfying dish. I can just see the ranch hands called in to the communal table with a large pot of cooked beans in which they dipped their tortillas before spooning the beans over them. This was the humble beginning of a dish that eventually made it to the NYT food page and modern Mexican cookbooks. Who would have known?
Since I saw it demonstrated at the cooking class I have seen it made with a few variations and developed a couple of ways to make it myself, depending on what I have on hand.
When I arrived here, a pot of black beans was one of the first things I cooked with this dish in mind as one of the ways to use the beans. You can make enfrijoladas with any beans so don’t restrict yourself and experiment.
One thing about cooking the beans for this dish, you need to have a sufficient amount of liquid left into which you dip the tortillas. The beans should be cooked to a soft texture and the broth should be a thick and soupy consistency. I mash the beans slightly with a potato masher at this point. Also, I generally make this with white corn tortillas that tend to be softer and more pliable. This time I only had yellow corn tortillas so that’s what I used.
The method is simple: soak the beans, sauté an onion, a few cloves garlic and a couple of hot peppers in oil, add the beans, cover with water and cook until done, making sure there is enough water throughout. I added about a cup of salsa at the end I and you can add a bullion cube or stock to flavour the beans further.
Once the beans are cooked mash them slightly with a potato masher, adjust the seasoning and you are ready to go. Garnishes can be as simple or elaborate as you wish: chopped red onion, cilantro, crema, queso fresco and more salsa if you wish. The basic recipe is made just with beans and tortillas buy that’s the beauty of cooking your own food, you make the rules.
2 cups black beans, soaked overnight (see note below)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
4 cups water or broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup red salsa
Salt to taste
12 white corn tortillas
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
A handful cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup cojita cheese, crumbled, or use feta
Sort and rinse the bean, then soak overnight changing the water once.
Heat up the oil in a pot, add onion and sauté until softened.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant but don’t let it brown.
Drain the beans and add them to the pot together with the broth. Do not add salt until after the beans are cooked. Adding the salt in the beginning will harden their shell and they will not cook properly.
Bring to a boil, lower heat to a steady simmer and cook until the beans are cooked through. You should have enough liquid left in the pot so you can wet the tortillas in it.
When the beans are cooked through partially mash them using a potato masher, leaving some beans whole.
Add the red salsa (optional) and mix it in.
Warm up the corn tortillas.
Place a tortilla, one at a time, on top of the beans to wet the underside. With a fork or tongs turn it over to wet the other side.
Place on a plate and fold in quarters. Use 3-4 tortillas per serving.
Spoon some of the cooked beans and broth over the tortillas.
Top with diced red onion, cilantro, tomatoes and cheese.
Drizzle Mexican crema over.
Note: if you use canned beans follow the same process described for the beans above but add less water or stock because the beans are already cooked.