With barbecue season in full swing and the Fourth of July coming up, I thought it would be a good time to share my favorite recipe for perfect, uncomplicated, chuck wagon-style pinto beans. And the best part of all is that you can make them in the crock pot!
Now some might claim that these beans are plain, and sure, you could gussy them up with diced tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, or cilantro…but I would argue that it is the simplicity of these pintos that makes them so versatile. They are equally delicious served alongside brisket or Mexican food, and they can be ladled into a bowl and cozied up to some steaming buttered cornbread for a meal unto themselves.
This recipe is adapted from Tom Perini’s best-selling cookbook “Texas Cowboy Cooking.” For those who have never heard of Tom Perini, he’s a master of cowboy cuisine, chuck wagon cooking, and Southern comfort food, whose credentials include catering for the President and cooking with Paula Deen amongst many other impressive accolades. If you ever find yourself near Abilene, Texas, you must make time for a detour through nearby Buffalo Gap to eat at Perini Ranch Steakhouse. It’s rustic, unpretentious, and, many would argue, the best steak (much less meal) in west Texas. My husband was living in Abilene when we first started dating and I think we ate at Perini’s every time I visited him there. The fact that people will drive out to the middle of nowhere to sit in hard wooden chairs in a non-air conditioned, converted hay barn should tell you something about the caliber of food served in said establishment.
As for this bean recipe, I usually double it and freeze any leftovers in two-cup portions. Most of the time, though, I use up leftovers before I could ever freeze them, mashed up in burritos or quesadillas, sprinkled over nachos or taco salad…you get the picture. I’ve made these beans with bacon instead of salt pork, or no meat at all when I didn’t have any pork on hand. Whatever I end up using (or not using), I just adjust the salt at the end accordingly. I also tend to add a lot more garlic than the original recipe calls for. If I’m out of fresh garlic, I toss in two tablespoons of jarred minced garlic from my refrigerator. And while you may certainly soak your beans before cooking, I don’t find that step to be necessary since I’ve adapted this recipe to the slow cooker. The first time you make these beans, be sure to watch the water level and add more if necessary. Cooking time may vary based on how hot your crock pot runs. You want the beans to be tender but not falling apart.
The next time you’re looking for an effortless, simple bowl of beans to eat on its own or as a side dish to barbecue or enchiladas, look no further than your chuck wagon — er, crock pot. You won’t believe that combining a few basic ingredients can result in something so comforting and so good.
Adapted from Texas Cowboy Cooking.
This post is linked to Sundae Scoop Link Party #85 at I Heart Naptime.