Friday, June 12, 2015

Bring on Barbecue Season …

For those of you who have spent much time around us, you know that we enjoy grilling. Although we do tend to use our grill on a year-round basis, we also enjoy the summer months as an opportunity to try out new grilling recipes. This includes recipes for side dishes to accompany what we cook on the grill.
For good or for bad, we do enjoy beans as a side dish. I will let you decide for yourself what that may or may not say about our family. I promise not to be offended by your assessment. A couple of years ago, I tried my hand at traditional Boston baked beans. These make a great side, especially for a traditional barbecue with hamburgers and hot dogs. 
This year, I wanted to try my hand at a recipe that had more of a Southwestern flair. Last year, we purchased a smoker and have enjoyed using it for beef brisket or a pork roast. My goal was to find a recipe that would complement smoked meat and have a bit of spice as well. The recipe that I am sharing through this post uses pinto beans and is actually a compilation of multiple recipes that I found while searching the web.

Pinto beans are regarded as the most popular bean in the United States and northwestern Mexico. The Spanish word for pinto beans is frijol pinto, which means "speckled bean." The skin of the bean loses its speckled appearance once it is cooked. In areas where meat is sparse, pinto beans are often served with rice and cornbread. Together, the amino acids present in these foods provide a complete source of protein.
To soak or not to soak …
Until I tried this recipe (or rather conglomeration of recipes that became my own recipe), I had always soaked dry beans. If time allowed, I would do the overnight soak in cold water. If I found myself in a rush, I would go with a quick soak by bringing the water to a boil. I noticed that several of the recipes that I had looked at didn't call for soaking the beans. I even found an LA Times article in which the author described his efforts in preparing three batches of beans - one using an overnight soak, one using a quick soak, and one without soaking. His assessment was that the non-soaked beans, while taking longer to cook, had better flavor. The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, also claims not to soak her beans. So, I decided to go with the no-soak approach. I will caution you that the beans will take longer to cook so you do need to allow for several hours of simmering.

Here are the ingredients and instructions (If you want fewer beans, feel free to cut the amounts in half). This recipe fed us for days!:

  • Wash and sort 2 pounds of dry pinto beans. Place them in a large cooking pot and add enough water to cover the beans. At this point, you can turn on the heat and bring the beans to a boil. Once the beans are boiling, turn down the heat so that they continue to simmer. Based on my experience with this recipe, the next time I make these beans, I will probably let them simmer for about an hour before adding the rest of the  ingredients. Probably not a big deal either way, but this is my observation after the first attempt.

Add the following ingredients to the beans:
  • 1-2 cups brisket burnt ends or smoked sirloin. We used smoked sirloin since we could prepare it rather quickly to add to the beans. Shred up the meat into small pieces and add it to the beans and water. Its main role is to add a smoky taste to the beans.

  • 1 quart canned tomatoes. We used a quart of our home-canned tomatoes. Feel free to substitute a 30-ounce can of store-bought canned tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce - my recommendation here is to use a more "traditional" style barbecue sauce and to avoid those with more distinctive, unusual flavors. The purpose here is really to add to the flavor of the beans so you want something that will easily blend in with the other ingredients. I chose to use 1/2 cup each of two different sauces.

  • 3 tablespoons of minced garlic (feel free to use more or less based on your preferences). As I've mentioned before, we buy a jar of minced garlic to have on hand in the refrigerator. We just spoon in what looks about right to us.
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and very finely chopped - decide for yourself how much added "kick" you want. For 2 lbs of beans, about 1 1/2 medium-sized peppers works for us. We wanted a little zing but not to be overwhelmed with heat from the jalapeños.
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder - I used a chipotle chili powder that I purchased in Sante Fe. It packs a little extra "heat" and also has a great smoky flavor to it. Again, the goal is some added flavor without overwhelming the beans.
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt - this is a good starting point for the salt. Adjust as needed.

Add additional liquid as needed during the cooking process. We used close to 2 quarts of tomato juice. Water would probably be fine as well. We decided to go with the added flavor of the tomato juice. We also have plenty of jars of tomato juice on hand in our cold storage room.
Be careful to stir the beans at about 15 minute intervals as they are cooking. You will find that the beans will settle to the bottom of the pot even if it appears that you have adequate liquid on top. Keep your additional source of liquid close at hand, and continue to add more as needed throughout the cooking process. Anticipate at least 3 hours of total cooking time.

Dinner is served!