Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Slow-Cooker Cowboy Beans with Bacon

Cowboy beans, cowboy stew, cowboy chili, cowboy anything is, of course, a name bestowed upon food to honor the simple, rustic, and boldly flavored dishes traditionally slow-cooked over an open fire somewhere out on the range. Cowboys made do with what they had. And that often resulted in a succulent, satisfying dinner—even out of a tin plate.

Whatever the truth (or stereotype), it’s a fact that slow-cooker beans made with ingredients common in western U.S. cooking are a delicious addition to dinner tables anywhere and everywhere. Smoky bacon, spicy chiles, a little sweet tomato puree and maple syrup, plenty of earthy garlic and onion, and a savory mixture of red chili and pinto beans—it all adds up to one rich, scrumptious dish to enjoy on any kind of plate.

Note: Timing is never exact in a slow-cooker. My beans spent a total of 10 hours cooking—nine hours on low (covered) and 1 hour on high (uncovered). Finishing with the pot uncovered helps the sauce to thicken a bit. Start tasting your beans for texture after about six hours to best judge how much total time you’ll need.

Serves  8

  • 1 cup dry pinto beans
  • 1 cup dry red chili beans
  • 6 slices bacon (not too thin), chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, chopped (seeded, if large)
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Bacon, Onion, and Chiles Ready to Cook
  1. Place all beans in a pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Cover and let stand overnight. Pour the beans into a colander and drain. Rinse thoroughly under cold water and drain again.
Beans Ready to Soak 
Soaked Beans
Rinsed, Drained Beans
  1. Place the bacon in the bottom of a slow-cooker and pour the soaked beans on top. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring gently to combine. (Try to keep the bacon on the bottom at first.)
Bacon in the Bottom of the Cooker 
Remaining Ingredients Added
  1. Cook, covered, over low heat until the beans are almost tender, 8-9 hours. (Stir a few times during cooking.)
  2. Increase the heat to high and cooked uncovered until the beans are tender and the sauce is slightly thick, 1 hour longer.
Beans after 5 Hours 
Cooked Beans
To serve, divide the beans into individual bowls or spoon onto plates alongside the main-course meat or poultry.

Slow-Cooker Cowboy Beans with Bacon

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