Cowboy beans, for the uninitiated, are Texan baked beans, spiked with coffee and often some kind of beef. Lisa Fain's recipe in her new cookbook, The Homesick Texan's Family Table, offer a bit of a twist on the usual dish—instead of using fresh beef in the beans, she stirs in diced beef jerky. As Fain explains, she figured that if cowboys were indeed making beans like these, they'd be far more likely to toss in a little dried beef than carry around the fresh stuff on the trail. Makes sense to me.
Why I picked this recipe: It's rare that I come across a recipe calling for beef jerky. I had to try it.
What worked: I was surprised how well beef jerky worked in these sweet and savory beans.
What didn't: I am a big believer in salting beans as they soak and cook, so I added a bit as the beans were simmering on the stove as well as to the flavoring mix while they baked. I didn't add as much as I normally would if I were cooking plain pinto beans as the jerky contains a fair bit of salt on its own.
Suggested tweaks: If you shy away from beef jerky, these beans would be equally good with a bit of cured pork thrown in. Depending on what you use, you may want to adjust the seasoning.