I know I’m making big claims, but I know you will be hard pressed to find better beans elsewhere. I grew up on Great Northern beans where the seasoning consisted of diced ham, chopped onion, salt, and pepper. That’s how my mom cooked them. Great Northern beans are a very neutral legume, so this simple preparation is satisfactory. They used to be my favorite, but after a couple of years testing out different pinto bean preparations, I have decided that I would much rather have pintos.
Pinto beans are also versatile. I’ll have a bowl of beans. I’ll make refried beans with leftovers to enjoy with eggs. Leftovers find their way into chilis, stews, and even spaghetti. If you have a great recipe that calls for beans, these lowly beans will elevate the the dish to levels that cannot otherwise be attained.
1 1/2 pounds dried pinto beans
2 beef short ribs
1 bell pepper
1 stalk celery
1 anaheim chile
1 white onion
1 link andouille sausage
2 strips bacon (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme (I usually use dried thyme leaves, but this is what I had on hand)
1 teaspoon mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons chimayo blend chile (more on this later)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup red wine
7 cloves garlic-minced
2 tablespoons beef base
2 teaspoons cumin
1 can Rotel
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Sort and soak beans in water the night before. Rinse thoroughly before you are ready to cook.
Chop all vegetables and set aside.
Measure seasonings. (paprika, thyme, oregano, white pepper, chimayo blend chile, and black pepper. (I purchased this Chimayo blend chile online from New Mexico. They are known for their Hatch chiles and I want to do everything possible to make my beans taste great. I’m merely sharing where I bought my chile powder because I like the product. If you want to use something better than McCormick, that is one place to look. By the way, I use many different McCormick products. They’re great. When you find something even better, you need to snatch that opportunity.) Save the cumin until later as cooking it too long can make it bitter. Add seasonings to a bowl for a later step.
Preheat pot. I use a cast iron dutch oven for my beans and it has served me well. Once heated, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Salt and pepper beef short ribs and brown. Remember the Maillard reaction I described in my jambalaya recipe? This is important for flavorful beans. Typically, the meat will initially stick to the bottom of the pan. After it has formed that crust, or scab, the meat will release. At that point, you can turn the meat to brown the other sides. If you are really patient, you can brown the edges with the aid of tongs.
Remove the ribs and set aside. Hopefully, you have prechopped the andouille. I prefer Manda, but Savoie’s is a good choice. Cut it lengthwise. Then cut the two halves lengthwise again. Now you can dice it up into small triangle-ish pieces. Add the andouille and finely chopped bacon to brown.
At this point, add chopped vegetables and cook to soften. Once the vegetables are about halfway done, add the garlic and short ribs. You don’t want to add the garlic too soon or it could turn bitter. All vegetables will be ready for the next stage once the onion is translucent.
Add 1/2 cup red wine (I had some Bordeaux on hand). I don’t drink, but I often cook with alcohol. Never use cooking wine. It is inferior. I don’t know how to judge wines, but I figure a $10-$15 wine will work nicely). Deglaze pot with wine and add in beans, spice blend, and Rotel. Fill pot with water and simmer slowly for about an hour.
At this point, you can add cumin. (I actually have a spice blend that I got in Honduras. I know the main ingredient is cumin, but I have not identified the others. For all I know it’s ground coca leaves.) You also want to add the beef base. I’ve used both the powdered and pudding-like base. I like the latter one better, but the former is easier to store and doesn’t take up valuable refrigerator space.
This is a good time to remove the beef ribs to cool. Once cooled, dice up what little meat is there and reintroduce to the bean pot.
Simmer around another 1/2 hour to an hour and you have an incredible pot of beans.
These beans go terrific with flour tortillas or buttery cornbread.
This is my recipe that I finally wrote down to minimize variation. Feel free to share it, but please credit me accordingly. Also, if you have a better recipe, I’ll be glad to try it out.