Why This Recipe Works
- Smoked meat and a blend of spices add tons of flavor to beans, whether you slow-simmer them or cook them rapidly under pressure.
- Contrary to popular belief, adding salt to the bean-cooking water helps tenderize them more evenly.
Most of us here live in the real world. And in the real world, there's no such thing as leftover smoked brisket, beef chuck, pork, or turkey. Let's accept that as a given. But, in the interest of philosophical and gustatory pursuit, let us assume, however difficult it may be, that such a world in which smoked-meat leftovers exist, exists.
For me, that's easy, because I don't really inhabit the real world of cooking. I inhabit the recipe developer's world. A world in which test after test means that smoking a single brisket or beef chuck is not a viable option. For several weeks, my fridge was packed to the gills with leftover smoked meat, and there were only so many neighbors I could pawn it off onto.
Luckily, that smoked meat is not just great as the star of the show; it's also great as a supporting actor, adding its characteristic flavor to a pot of barbecue beans.
These beans aren't your typical over-sweet barbecue beans, with the shiny, molasses-heavy glaze you'll find in cans. They're spicy, packed with black pepper and smoke flavor, and they have just a hint of sweetness to balance them out. I start by sautéing some onion, celery, and garlic (if I happen to have some in the fridge, I may also add a green pepper or a hot chile or two), then add plenty of freshly ground black pepper, some paprika, and a touch of cumin and oregano.
For extra-deep flavor, I also add a couple of dried red chiles that I've chopped up relatively fine. I used guajillo here because it's what I had in my freezer, but you can use any mild dried red chile that's available to you. They start out papery and tough, but don't worry—they'll soften up in the time that it takes the beans to cook. Next, I add a pound of dried pinto beans that I've soaked overnight in salt water (salt in the soaking liquid helps the beans tenderize more evenly), and as much or as little chopped smoked meat as I want to use. (If you don't have leftover smoked meat, you can always use bacon, smoked sausage, or any smoked meat from the supermarket.) Cover the whole thing with water, add a couple of bay leaves, and set it on the stove.
In a few hours, after you've stirred in just a smidgen of brown sugar and cider vinegar—saving the acidic ingredients until the end helps the beans tenderize faster—you'll be rewarded with just about the most delicious pot of smoky, spicy barbecue beans imaginable.
(PS: If you want to make this even faster, break out the pressure cooker for smoky barbecue beans in under two hours, start to finish, no soaking required.)
Now the question is, what do you do with leftover beans, assuming that a world in which leftover beans exist, exists?
Smoky Barbecue Beans Recipe
Leftover barbecued brisket, pulled pork, or smoked turkey give these amply spiced beans an irresistible campfire fragrance and meaty flavor.
1 pound (450g) dried pinto beans, picked over
2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil or lard
1 large onion (about 8 ounces; 225g), finely diced
2 stalks celery (about 4 ounces; 115g), finely diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon (12g) ground cumin
1 tablespoon (12g) paprika
2 tablespoons (20g) coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 whole dried New Mexico, guajillo, California, or pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped
2 teaspoons (5g) dried oregano
8 to 12 ounces (225 to 340g) leftover smoked beef, pork, or turkey, chopped (see note)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) brown sugar
2 tablespoons (30ml) apple cider vinegar
To Cook on the Stovetop: Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon salt, stir to dissolve, and let beans stand on the countertop overnight.
The next day, drain beans and set aside. Heat vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cumin, paprika, black pepper, dried chiles, oregano, and chopped meat. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans, bay leaves, and 8 cups (2L) water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are completely tender and liquid is reduced to a rich consistency, about 3 hours. Stir in sugar to dissolve, stir in vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, discard bay leaves, and serve.
To Cook in a Pressure Cooker: Heat vegetable oil in pressure cooker medium-high heat until shimmering (if using an electric pressure cooker, set it to "sauté" and allow to preheat). Add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cumin, paprika, black pepper, dried chiles, oregano, and chopped meat. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans, bay leaves, and 6 cups (1.5L) water. Place lid on cooker and cook at high pressure for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and release pressure in short bursts. Remove lid and simmer until beans are completely tender and liquid is reduced to a rich consistency, about 15 to 30 minutes. Stir in sugar to dissolve, stir in vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, discard bay leaves, and serve.
These beans are tastiest with leftover smoked brisket, beef chuck, pork, or turkey. If you don't have leftover smoked meat, you can omit it, or replace it with 6 ounces of chopped, cooked bacon or 8 ounces of your favorite smoked sausage, cooked and chopped.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||9%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||9%|
|Total Carbohydrate 34g||12%|
|Dietary Fiber 8g||27%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||20%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|