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Cowboy Beans

Cowboy Beans (American Tex-Mex beans with ground beef)

(American Tex-Mex beans with ground beef)

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There's no better friend to southwestern barbecue than a big scoop of cowboy beans. Full of spicy Tex-Mex flavor, this border-state variation of baked beans bulks up with a hefty helping of browned ground beef and adds a nice dose of barbecue sauce.

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Dried beans (see variations) -- 1 pound
  • Bacon, chopped -- 4 pieces
  • Ground beef -- 1 pound
  • Onion, chopped -- 1
  • Garlic, minced -- 3 or 4 cloves
  • Jalapeño peppers (optional), finely chopped -- 2 or 3
  • Ketchup -- 1/2 cup
  • Barbecue sauce -- 1/2 cup
  • Molasses, sorghum syrup or brown sugar -- 1/4 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to season

Method

  1. Rinse the beans and put them in a large saucepan. Add water to cover the beans by about 2 inches and set aside to soak overnight, or for about 8 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse the soaked beans, and then cover them with fresh water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the beans are cooked through but still firm. Drain again but do not rinse. Set aside.
  3. Set a skillet over medium flame. Add the bacon and saute until it is browned and a little crispy. Add the ground beef to the skillet and saute, breaking it up, until cooked through and browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked beef and bacon and add them to the beans.
  4. Drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet and add the onion, garlic and jalapeño. Saute over medium flame until the onion is cooked through and translucent. Scoop the vegetables and the fat in the pan into the saucepan with the beans and meat.
  5. Stir in the ketchup, barbecue sauce and molasses, sorghum or brown sugar, salt and pepper into the beans. Add 1 or 2 cups of water to the beans to loosen them up a bit.
  6. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high flame, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the beans are tender and flavorful, adding a little water now and then if needed to keep the beans moist. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Cowboy Beans Variations

  • Beans: You can use any type of beans you like really — pinto beans, navy beans, black beans and kidney beans all work fine.
  • Canned Beans: If you want to skip the trouble of cooking dried beans, just subsitute 2 (15-ounce) cans of cooked beans instead.
  • Calico Beans: Use a mix of beans with different colors. For example, use kidney beans, lima beans and pinto beans.
  • Stir 2 tablespoons of chili powder into the onions and jalapeños as you saute them.
  • Add a smoked ham hock to the simmering beans to give them a richer, smokier flavor.
  • Stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar to give your beans extra tang.

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