Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cowboy Beans

Anyone who knows me knows I like my chili Texas style, and that means no beans.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t like beans.  I love 'em.  Just not in my chili.  But beans, on their own, are wonderful things, and lend themselves to a myriad of dishes.  They have some nice flavor on their own, but also hold up well to spices and other flavor additions.  And that’s where this recipe comes in. 

Like chili, beans were a staple in a cowboy’s diet while on the range, and this dish is prepared with many of the same spices that one would find in a proper chili dish.  This recipe is similar to the commercial product called ‘Ranch Style Beans,’ but with the flavor kicked up a few notches more. 

This is also a recipe that lends itself to camp fire cooking in that most ubiquitous of all camp cooking items, the Dutch oven. 

If you don’t have one, any pot will work, but the even heating properties of a cast iron Dutch oven work well for the long, low and slow cooking times required to make these beans shine. 

Cowboy Beans

1 lb Pinto Beans
1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves Garlic, peeled
½ oz dried Ancho chilies, rehydrated and pureed
7 oz Ground tomatoes
1.5 oz Tomato paste
1 tblsp apple cider vinegar
6.5 oz Beef stock
¼ cup chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried mustard
1 1/3 oz Better than Bullion base paste
1 tsp salt
2 oz Jalapeno sauce (optional)
Water, enough to top up and cover beans by ½ inch
1 tsp vegetable or olive oil

(note, in the pictures that follow, I’m making a quadruple batch, so I’ll have lots left over for freezing)

Sort beans and discard any weirdos.  Soak beans overnight.  

Drain beans in colander and rinse.  Add to your pot or Dutch oven and set aside.   (note, discard the soaking water and use fresh water for cooking the beans)

Chop onion and sauté until soft, clear and slightly browned.  

Add onion to beans when they’re done.

While onions are simmering, remove the stems and seeds from the dried Ancho chiles. 

Boil a pint or two of water and add the Ancho chilies.  Let them boil for 5 to 10 minutes until soft.  Remove them from the water and place in food processor with peeled garlic cloves.  

Add a bit of the reserved Ancho chile liquid.  Process until smooth paste forms.  

If necessary, add a more of the Ancho chile liquid, a little at a time, until all the bits of garlic and chile are smoothly processed into a paste.  Add this paste to the beans. 

Next add the ground tomatoes and tomato paste to the beans, as well as the apple cider vinegar and beef stock.  

Top up the remaining Ancho chile water with enough additional water to make about a quart of liquid.  To this add the chili powder, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, mustard, salt and bullion base paste.  Stir until spices are evenly suspended in the liquid and the paste is dissolved.  Add this to the beans.  If using, add jalapeno sauce.  Top up with enough water to cover beans by about a half inch.

If cooking in oven, set it for 275F and cook beans for 6-8 hours, until tender and flavorful.  Stir every couple hours. 

When I cook a 4 lb batch in my large Dutch oven, I can’t fit it in my stove, so I do things ‘cowboy style,’ as if I were camping out or on the trail.  I fire up about a half chimney of charcoal, place half of it in the base of my Weber kettle, place the Dutch oven on top...

 ...and then place the remaining coals on the lid of the Dutch oven.  

I then open the dampers fully on the Weber, and place the lid loosely on top.  I let cook for 3 hours, add more charcoal, then cook for another three hours, for six hours total.   

Carefully remove the lid of the Dutch oven, so as not to get any ashes in your beans, and taste the beans.  If there is still some firmness to them, let them cook another hour or two.  If they are soft enough for you and the flavor seems right, serve away. 

 Here we've served the beans with some simple grilled Flat Iron steak.

And so, there you have it.  A great way for a Texan (or anyone else) to enjoy their beans.  (We'll discuss that chili on another day) 

Until next time, 

Happy trails, pardner!