Mel and John did tons of traveling around the southwest before Amanda and I came along. My dad was a traveling phone man. I think he installed telephone systems for businesses, hospitals, and the like. There was a whole lot of 'em, traveling phone men. My parents always talk about so-and-so from the telephone business. Some of John's dearest friends were fellow phone-men. They hopped all over California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico. They lived in hotels and trailers and tiny apartments, and made friends from all kinds of crazy walks of life. Some of Mel's dearest friends were people she met at stops along the way. Their stories from that time were legends in my house when I was growing up. Like the time Mel lost her top every time she dove into the otherwise unused pool at one of their stops, only to learn–after days of swimming–that the inside of the pool was a 2-way mirror… with a big giant window right into the local bar full of old men. Or the time when they had to buy beer from a secret window in a tiny dry town in Utah. So many stories about the people they met, the food they ate, the adventures they had. Foot loose and fancy free, those crazy kids.
At some point along the road, Mel picked up a deep, unrelenting love of Mexican and southwest flavors. She also picked up some amazing recipes. Her red chile pork tamale recipe came from a lady they rented an apartment from in a tiny town in California. And this recipe I'm sharing with you today–Aperitivo de Frijol–is from a cookbook a fellow traveling phone-man gave Mel in a tiny town in Arizona.
That cookbook is great. It's spiral bound, has a hand-drawn picture of enchiladas on the cover, and is full of great recipes–the greatest being Aperitivo de Frijol. My family has busted out this cheesy bean dip recipe for years. Move over 7-layer dip. Seriously. Beans, green chile peppers, cheese, all slow cooked to gooey, super amazingness. It might not be the prettiest bean dip you've ever seen, but hot damn, it tastes so good!
Aperitivo de Frijol
Adapted from Special Mexican Dishes by Amalia Ruiz Clark
4 slices of bacon, cooked & crumbled (include the drippings too!)
4 cups refried beans (canned or homemade)
1 can black beans, drained)
1 cup chopped green chiles (canned or roasted & peeled)
1 large onion, diced, or if you don't like larger pieces of onion, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 pound grated sharp cheddar (reserve a half cup)
1/2 pound grated jack cheese
Add everything except cheese to slow cooker. Cook on low for 3 hours. Add all but the reserved half cup of cheese, and cook for one additional hour. You can serve a few ways. The original recipe says to serve in a fondue dish with the remaining cheese sprinkled on top. You can also just keep it in the slow cooker and have people ladle up their own serving–perfect game day food!