Donde esta la fiesta?!
I love the Southwest’s love of beans. Pinto and black beans are so filling and delicious, they are the perfect side or even the main dish. Over the past few years, I have been searching for the perfect bean recipe, one that competes with the spicy, rich beans we get from the best Tex-Mex joints here in Dallas. Finally I think I have adapted and perfected a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen that will make any get-together a fiesta! This recipe is not difficult, but it does take patience as the best pinto beans are made over two days (and just get better with time).
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried mexican oregano
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 cup beer, preferably Shiner Bock
3 cups water
1 lb dried pinto beans
12 oz thick sliced bacon (nothing smokey)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
garnishes (optional) : cilantro, avocado, lime, tortilla strips, diced jalapenos, cotija
DAY 1 – Salt-Soak the Beans
The first day is an easy one. Rinse the beans and pick over for any small stones or bad beans. In a large bowl, add the beans, two tablespoons of salt, and about a gallon of water. Just leave the bowl out overnight to soak. Soaking time of about 24 hours is best! You will see the beans start to swell a little and the skins will soften. You may also sense they are smiling after their day at the spa.
DAY 2 – Start cooking!
Give the beans a good rinse after their salt-soak. Set them aside in a colander while you make the rest of the recipe.
1. Cut the bacon into 1 inch squares and add to a skillet. Cook over medium heat until the bacon is cooked, but not crispy. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the cooked bacon to the crock pot, taking care to drain some of the extra grease off before you move it. Once the bacon is transfered, pour out all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the pan.
2. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, chipotles, and chili powder to the remaining bacon grease in the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and a little browned. Stir in the beer, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Take a swig from the remaining beer in the bottle and pat yourself on the back- The beans aren’t the only ones that deserve a day at the spa and a delicious Shiner. Turn down the heat if the beer gets above a simmer. After about 5 minutes, when the beer sauce has thickened, transfer the contents to the crock pot.
3. Pour the drained beans into the crock pot. Start pouring in the water, but stop when you have just covered all of the contents. This will be between 2.5 to 3 cups of water (you don’t have to use all 3). Now stir in the brown sugar to dissolve. Drink the rest of that Shiner in the bottle. Mmmmm!
4. Cover the crock pot and turn on to the low setting. The beans are best if cooked for at least 12 hours. This may mean that you make this the over the night before and reheat when ready to serve (This is okay! They get better with time!). You should check the beans every several hours to make sure that the water level has not decreased so much as to expose and burn any beans. Stir it if beans pop out, and add just a little water if it seems the level is getting low.
One hour before serving: Keep the crock pot on low, but move the lid so that the steam can escape. Allow the bean sauce to reduce. Add any garnishes or extras to the beans.