Not only is the 16th of September my late father’s birthday (Daddy would have been 73 today), but it also marks Mexico’s Independence Day, which was kicked off by a Roman Catholic priest named Hidalgo.
As Wikipedia tells us:
The Grito de Dolores (“Cry of Dolores”) also known as El Grito de la Independencia (“Cry of Independence”), uttered from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato on September 16, 1810 is the event that marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence and is the most important national holiday observed in Mexico. The “Grito” was the pronunciamiento of the Mexican War of Independence by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest.
Hidalgo and several criollos were involved in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government, and the plotters were betrayed. Fearing his arrest, Hidalgo commanded his brother Mauricio, as well as Ignacio Allende and Mariano Abasolo to go with a number of other armed men to make the sheriff release the pro-independence inmates there on the night of 15 September. They managed to set eighty free. Around 6:00 am September 16, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. Flanked by Allende and Juan Aldama, he addressed the people in front of his church, encouraging them to revolt.
The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico’s independence would not be effectively declared from Spain in the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire until September 27, 1821, after a decade of war.
We enjoy celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day in our house. I believe one should never pass up a reason to celebrate, and not only is September 16th a great excuse for eating delicious TexMex (although TexMex is so delicious and versatile, it makes any occasion special 😉 ), for me, it also commemorates my late father’s birthday.
Daddy and I had what grew into a difficult relationship — we were estranged the last 10 years of his life — but for me, his birthday and Mexico’s Independence Day are always linked. On this day, I always remember one of the last of his birthdays we spent together, our sitting in a Mexican restaurant on his birthday, chips and salsa and queso on the table, frozen margaritas in hand, and his telling me that we were celebrating not only his birthday, but Mexico’s Independence Day, as well. And I think of his 50th birthday celebration, when I flew in as a surprise guest (thank you, Jan!).
When Mexico’s Independence Day comes around, I view it as an excellent excuse to change my whole latitude 😉 by splurging on some Corona Light (with lime, of course!) and/or maybe a Carb-Conscious (no-sugar-added) frozen lime margarita.
For Mexico’s Independence Day (and my late dad’s birthday), I often like to make something that I don’t usually make — such as my own salsa, flour tortillas, charro beans (absolutely delicious!) — or try some kind of new recipe. It was through trying a new recipe that I discovered that hubby loves, loves, LOVES chimichangas. 🙂 For my beloved, chimichanga means fiesta!
And so, as we did for Cinco de Mayo, we’ll be having chimichangas for Mexico’s Independence Day.
But to go along with the chimichangas, I’m going to make up some charro beans. And NO, I don’t mean Charo (the talented guitarist and bubbly Spanish-born entertainer known for her “cuchi-chuchi” catchphrase). I’m talking about frijoles charros, which, as Wikipedia tells us, are a version of Cowboy Beans:
Frijoles charros (cowboy beans) is a traditional Mexican dish. It is named after the traditional Mexican horsemen, or Charro. The dish is characterized by pinto beans stewed with onion, garlic, and bacon. Other common ingredients include chilies, tomatoes, coriander, ham, sausage, pork and chorizo. It is served warm, and is usually of a soupy consistency.
Inspired by this delicious recipe at Food.com, and me being me, I make my charro beans on the lighter — but most decidedly yummy! — side, as reflected in the recipe below. Adding in the veggies and beer near the end of the cooking time gives it all a fresher flavor, I think. And, if you like, you can spice things up with a bit of chili powder and cumin, as well.
This smells — and tastes! — so yummy, you’ll be dancing in your kitchen to Malagueña while enjoying your Corona Light or margarita 🙂
Charro Beans (Makes 4 to 8 servings, or more or less, depending upon whether you serve them as a side or as a main)
- 1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed and sorted
- Bacon or salt pork to taste (you don’t need much) (Vegetarians: Use canola or olive oil; and/or you can add in some “Soy-rizo” if you like, as well)
- Minced garlic or garlic powder to taste (equivalent of 2 cloves, more or less, to taste)
- Salt & pepper to taste (I generally add no salt, just a splash of Worcestershire — vegetarians, you’d leave that out or use a vegan substitute — and black and/or red pepper to taste)
- Chopped onion (white, yellow, or purple) to taste (one small to medium onion)
- 1/2 to 1 whole green (or red or yellow or orange) bell pepper, to taste, seeded and chopped
- 2 or 3 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped/sliced (or use pickled jalapeño) (IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE: Wear gloves when handling jalapeño, avoid touching your face or eyes, and wash hands thoroughly after handling)
- 1 bottle or can (12 ounces) unchilled beer (I suggest Corona Light)
- Fresh cilantro to taste (be generous — 1/2 to a whole bunch of cilantro)
- Rinse and sort beans.
- For the “Quick Soak” method (my preference): Cover beans in a saucepan with about twice their volume of water. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 1 hour. Drain away liquid and rinse beans again (this method also helps reduce the gas-causing impact of the beans).
- Cover beans with water (you want an inch or so of water above the beans; you can add in more liquid as necessary, and remember, you’ll be adding in beer near the end of the cooking time). Add in a bit of diced bacon or salt pork (just a couple – three slices of any should do it) OR a splash or two of canola or olive oil. Season to taste with salt (and/or a splash of Worcestershire!) and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender but still a bit firm — about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- If desired, lightly sauté diced garlic, onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Stir into the pot with the beans.
- Add in room-temperature beer.
- Simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes.
- Stir in chopped fresh cilantro just before serving.
And because yes, I realize the irony of referencing Charo, who is Spanish-born, in discussing Mexico’s independence celebrations from Spain, here is the Mexican National Anthem — complete with subtitles! 🙂
¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Mexico!