Friday, July 10, 2015

Cowboy Up

Cowboy Beans {on my plate blog}

During the summer, we host several cookouts and attend even more. One of my go-to no-real-recipe dishes for sharing at these events is Cowboy Beans. Inevitably, someone asks for the recipe. But, there isn't a real recipe. I make it up as I go along, adjusting the ingredients to fit what I have on hand and the tastes of whoever will end up ladling them onto their plates.

However, last time I threw together a pot of these delicious beans, I did snap some step-by-step pics with my phone. I didn't record amounts; it will vary based on the quantity of beans that are prepared. But, hopefully, No Recipe Cowboy Beans gives you an idea of how to create your own summer side dish.

 First, start with some bacon, some ground beef or pork (this time, I used pork), some onion, and some garlic.

Dice the bacon and fry it until crispy.

Remove the bacon from the pan, and to the bacon grease, add the ground beef or pork. Crumble the ground meat, add diced onion, and fry until the meat is cooked through and the onion is translucent.

When the onion is translucent, add minced garlic. Saute only a minute or so. Garlic burns easily and can be bitter.

After the garlic is cooked, you must decide if you will drain the grease from the pan. If there isn't a lot, leaving it gives the finished beans a great deal of flavor. However, if the added calories/fat are a concern, drain.

It is time to add the beans. I use 1 or 2 cans of Bush's prepared baked beans (Bold & Spicy) and several other cans of beans. Usually, I add black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, and or butter beans, but there is no hard and fast rule. Whatever I have on hand works. Drain and rinse all but one can of the plain beans.

I must stress that I believe Bold & Spicy are the only prepared beans to use for the best Cowboy Beans. Others work, but these have a great, not too sweet flavor and firm texture. In general, canned baked beans are often a can of mush, but not Bold & Spicy.

Stir the beans into the browned meat, onions, and garlic.

Now, it's time to start seasoning. I always add a little brown sugar (just a little, we don't like sweet beans), some molasses, and a good dose of cumin (for smoky depth of flavor).

Determine your favorite chili powder and add some. I throw in a few shakes of Ancho Chili Powder and a little Cayenne, but Chipotle Chili Powder is good, too (and even just plain old chili powder, if that is what you have).

Season with some freshly ground pepper, kosher salt, and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce. 

Sometimes, I ease up with the kosher salt and add some celery salt or smoked salt.

At this point, I let everything simmer for a bit.

If after tasting, I think the beans are too sweet, I splash in some Apple Cider Vinegar to add a little sharpness and counter that excess sugar.

Adjustments for those who prefer truly spicy baked beans are to saute diced or sliced jalapeno with the onion and to shake in a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce.

And, that is, more or less, how I make No Recipe Cowboy Beans.
Cowboy up and fill up your plate.

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