In Lisa Fain’s The Homesick Texan, the blogger writes about the Texan comfort food she makes when she wants to be brought back to her home state.
Cowboy beans, a popular staple in Texas, is a dish fashioned from pinto beans and meat. Recipes usually call for ground beef, which has always seemed a little silly to me as I doubt that the cowboys’ chuck wagon was stocked with perishable meat while out on the trail. However, they would have had on hand ample supplies of dried beef. With that in mind, I make my cowboy beans with beef jerky instead.
These slow-cooked beans are spicy, sweet, and savory, with the beef jerky adding both texture and a rich flavor. The beans make a good side dish for barbecues and potlucks, or you can serve them with a salad and biscuits and make them the main course of a meal. Though no matter how you offer them, when you close your eyes you can imagine you’re eating them by the fire under the stars, as you live your life on the trail.
- In a large pot, cover the beans with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Drain the beans and rinse.
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Return the beans to the pot and add the onion and garlic. Cover with water by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Remove the pot from the burner, cover the pot, and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
- Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the beef jerky, coffee, molasses, mustard, and chili powder.
- Return the pot to the oven, turn up the oven temperature to 350°F, and continue to cook, uncovered, until the beans are tender and the liquid is reduced and thickened, 1½ hours to 2½ hours, depending on the age of the beans. (If the beans are tough and don’t soften within this time frame, you may need to add a bit more water to the pot to keep the beans from becoming too dry.) The final consistency should be like a slightly soupy pot of baked beans.
- Once the beans are done, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from The Homesick Texan's Family Table by Lisa Fain, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.