Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Texas-style Beans

When I enter the Texas border to visit my relatives, I always exit off the freeway at the first Texas BBQ joint I see. My order is always the same: smokey barbeque sliced brisket, coleslaw, beans and a big cold glass of iced tea.

Sometimes referred to as Ranch-style Beans, these pinto beans are flavored with dried chilies, tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, brown sugar and a little vinegar. That's a whole lotta flavor.

The most unusual ingredients are dried chilies. I get mine from the 99c only Store and from my local Latin market. You only need about 6 dried chilies.

Click on photo to see larger.

Packages of dried red chilies come in a variety of types: California, Ancho, New Mexico and Guajillo. The colors go from deep red to black. Ancho chili has the strongest flavor, while the others are mild. And you will just soak them in hot water for a few minutes to soften, but make sure to remove the stem and too spicy hot seeds. You will still have a little bit of heat though.

If you can't find dried chilis, it's okay to substitute with two cans of red enchilada sauce or red chili sauce. You can use whole red chiles (like chipotle) from the can - just make sure to taste any canned sauce you add, for spiciness. Another easy substitution is dried chili powder (about 4 tablespoons.)

I've been cooking with dried chilies lately. They make an intense salsa, and are the base flavor for rich Pozole, a Mexican hominy, chili and meat stew (my video recipe, here.)

All the other veggies and spices are easy to get cheaply. And pinto beans are about the least expensive legume you can find - often for way less than a dollar per pound. They take at least 3 hours of simmering to make tender, and a couple more hours for the liquid to thicken like Ranch Style Beans from a can. And they will be even tastier the next day, when you heat them up again.

For a simple instant version of canned Ranch Style Beans (if your grocery doesn't carry it,) just add a tablespoon of Chili Powder to a can of cooked pinto beans and heat it up!

I like to add a little smoked pork for extra flavor, but you can leave the meat out for a vegetarian version of Texas-style Beans. You may want to use some vegetable broth to boost the flavor.

I make these beans when I barbeque, especially my scrumptious recipe for Pulled Pork, that's a link away, here. And you may want some cold and creamy coleslaw as a contrast (recipe link, here.)  For a change of pace, add a container of Texas-style Beans to your next picnic, or serve it with any favorite Mexican meal. Type the word "Mexican" into the "Search" box, upper right side of my blog, to see all my South-of-the-border recipes.

Chilies and beans belong together. And slow cooking the beans for hours will give the kitchen a wonderful aroma. Beans freeze well, so make a big pot of my Texas-style Beans for now, and for further down the road.

Ingredients (about 6 servings)
1 pound pinto beans - rinse and remove debris, if any.
1 whole onion - white or yellow, chopped. I used a yellow onion.
1 tablespoon chopped garlic - fresh or from jar. Okay to use dried or granulated garlic.
15 ounce can tomato sauce - okay to use any canned tomato, in pieces or whole. Just break up the tomatoes in a large bowl before adding. (They will soften and form a sauce after a few hours of simmering.) 
6 dried chilis - remove stem and seeds. I used California Chilies. Okay to use any type of dried red chilies, except for the very small fiery ones. (For an easy substitution, use two 15ounce cans of red chile, enchilada sauce, or 4 tablespoons of red chili powder.) Other dried red chilies are Ancho, New Mexico and Guajillo.
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon vinegar - white or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste - if you use cured pork then reduce the salt amount, as the pork is salty.
2 cups of water - to rehydrate dried chilies.
5 cups of water - for boiling the beans. Okay to substitute some of the water for any favorite stock, like: veggie, beef or chicken.
Ham hock, regular ham or bacon - optional. About half a pound of ham or ham hock. 2-3 slices of bacon. You can keep it all vegetarian and leave out the meat.

Get the dried chilies rehydrating. First remove the stems and seeds from dried chilies. Add them to 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow the chilies to soak for about 10 minutes to soften.

Add 5 cups of water to a large pot and turn up the heat.

Rinse the pinto beans and pick out any discolored bit of debris. Add beans to the pot of heating water. For quicker cooking you can soak the pinto bean overnight, or a couple hours.

Add one chopped onion and a tablespoon of minced garlic.

Next add the spices: ground cumin, dried oregano, brown sugar, vinegar and salt and pepper.

Dried chilies should be soft and the chili broth cool enough to blend. Add chilies to a blender or food processor, and enough chili broth to cover the soft chilies. Blend for a minute or so, until smooth. Some chili pieces will still be left, but that's okay, as they  will dissolve after a few hours of simmering with the beans.

(The lazy way to work with whole dried chilies is to remove the stem and seeds, then add them to the cooking beans. After 3 hours they will soften. Some dried chilies will break down, while others have a tough skin that will not soften. In that case just fish out the pieces of tough chilies when the beans are ready to serve. This easy whole chile cooking method is fine because you still get all of the chile flavor.)

Add chili sauce to pot with beans. Pour in a can of tomato sauce. If using whole tomatoes then break them into smaller pieces.

Stir all the ingredients together in the pot to mix well. Finally add a ham hock, ham piece or some bacon. If you are using bacon then crisp it up in a pan first, to remove some of the fat. Of course, you can leave out the meat and make these beans vegetarian. Some veggie broth would be a good addition (optional.)

Now bring it all to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Cook about 3 hours. Check beans every half hour to stir, so beans don't stick to bottom of pot and burn.

Uncover the pot and cook another hour or two. This will reduce the liquid. After about 3-4 hours total you can check to make sure the Texas-style Beans are tender, before serving.

If you want a thick, gravy bean broth then slow simmer for about 6 hours. Texas-style Beans served in a BBQ joint have been slow cooking all day. If the liquid cooks down too much then add a little water, as needed. Stir occasionally so beans do not stick to bottom of pot.

If you don't have access to whole dried chilies or enchilada sauce, an easy substitution is 4 tablespoons of chili powder from a spice jar.

For more chili flavor add a couple more dried chilies, or add a tablespoon of chili powder or paprika. Just taste the broth after a few hours to see if it needs more chili spice flavor.

For a simple instant version of canned Ranch Style Beans (if your grocery doesn't carry it,) just add a tablespoon of Chili Powder to a can of cooked pinto beans and heat it up!


KetaRita said...

I just started experimenting with dried chillies and this looks like a easy and flavorful recipe to try. I have two bags of dried pinto beans that have been staring at me in my pantry, this is perfect. Thanks for the recipe!

redcoltken said...

I made this for the family on the 4th of July and it was a hit! Thanks

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