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.
Reprinted with permission from The Homesick Texan's Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours by Lisa Fain. Copyright 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- 1/2 yellow onion, peeled
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 ounces beef jerky, diced
- 1/2 cup brewed coffee
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- Salt and black pepper
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, 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 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.