Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Trials and Tribulations of Pinto Beans

This recipe came about from my stubbornness in buying canned pinto beans. Nothing wrong with it (heck, I buy canned black and white beans all the time), but it was always something my family did, making pinto beans from the dried version. However, I have failed at this quite a few times. My first attempt was mushy, the second pithy, and the third had no bacon. Yep, utter failure. However, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend, I wanted to try them again. I had tried the stove before, but this time I was going to take the super slow cooking method, the crock-pot. Sweet.

First thing is first, buy a pound of dried pinto beans. If they come with "ham flavoring packets", THROW IT OUT. If I want that kind of flavor, I will buy ramen. Sort through the beans to make sure there are no stones, then place in a big pot and cover with water at least 3 inches above the beans. Soak overnight. This was the first mistake I had; I did not soak them the first time I made them. Do not skip this step; the beans need to take on a lot of water. In the morning, drain the beans and place in a crock-pot. Next comes the best part, throwing everything in and walking away. You will need:

1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno cut in half
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 smoked ham hock (or a few slices of bacon)

Add the first four ingredients to the pot, and then add water. And ahem, the ham hock or bacon is not optional; you need the smoky flavor to round out the beans. Trust me. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 4 inches. Season heavily, stir, cover, and turn the crock-pot on low. Walk away for about 8 hours. That easy. Taste your beans after about 8 hours, they should be tender but still have a little firmness, and they should not be pithy, but moist on the inside. Fish out the onion, jalapeno, and bacon, discard. Serve the beans with steak, chicken, tortillas, rice, or whatever you feel like. If you enjoy chiles as much as I do, add a can of diced green chiles after the beans are done cooking.

So there you have it. After my mistakes, you benefit by knowing it is really hard to screw these up (because I have not done it yet). Not only are these tasty, but really good for you and quite economical. I have not gone back to canned beans since; hopefully you can do the same.


Anonymous,  August 28, 2008 at 8:52 PM  

I can't believe you got Emily to eat beans!!!!!!!

That's almost as shocking as the first time I ever saw her turn off a bathroom light.

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