Thursday, February 27, 2014

Peppery pinto beans with sausage

peppery pinto  beans and sausage

I love beans. Soupy beans, refried beans, beans in a dip, or beans in a salad—it doesn’t matter how you serve them, I will eat beans and be happy. Like most Texans, they’ve long been a staple on my family’s table and I make a pot at least once a week. Matter of fact, I love them so much that I once preferred a side dish of pinto beans over some world-famous barbecue.

It happened last year. I was at the annual Foodways Texas symposium and renowned pitmaster Aaron Franklin served us dinner one night. Yes, his brisket was indeed exceptional, but it was his peppery pinto beans that I wanted to brave the line for yet another round. I know this may sound strange but I couldn’t stop eating them! And actually, I wasn’t alone in this opinion as others agreed his beans were superb. For me, it was the beans that were worth the long wait.

Without access to a smoker or an outdoor space, I knew that I couldn’t even begin to replicate Aaron’s barbecue, but I figured his beans were probably more doable. So after dinner, I went up to Aaron and asked him how he made his addictive beans. He shrugged and said it wasn’t anything complicated—he just threw into a pot some pinto beans along with some chopped brisket and a few shakes of pinto bean spice and let it simmer for a long time.

peppery pinto  beans and sausage

Well, I decided it was probably his smoked meat that took his beans over the top. Yet there was certainly no reason why I couldn’t at least try to make a similar pot, especially since most of his ingredients—save for the brisket—I always have on hand in my kitchen.

As I was beginning to make my pot of beans, I recalled my mom used to make pinto beans with smoky kielbasa sausage. It wasn’t sweet like beanie wienies but was instead more like a Texan take on that Cajun favorite, red beans and rice. The heartiness of the sausage coupled with the spicy, rich beans made for a mighty fine meal. It was then I realized that my mom's beans were what Aaron’s beans had reminded me of, and explained why I loved his so much. It was time to bring this old family favorite back into my regular rotation.

Now, some people think that beans are complicated, but they're not as long as you let them slowly do their thing. This pot was no different, and after stirring together pintos with sausage, jalapeños, aromatics, and a handful of spices, I then let them hang out on the stove for a few hours they until they gently came to life. When the beans were tender and the broth rich and savory, I then finished with a few dashes of smoked paprika for a final burst of smoke. It was a perfect pot of beans.

peppery pinto  beans and sausage

A bowl of beans is Texas-style comfort food at its best, and these peppery beans with sausage are no different. You can present them as a side dish and they will be the hit of your barbecue, or you can ladle them into big bowls and serve with wedges of warm cornbread for a satisfying supper. And yes, you must be patient while beans slowly reveal their true nature. But it's okay because like all good things, beans are well worth the wait.

Peppery pinto beans with sausage

1 pound dried pinto beans
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or bacon grease
1 pound smoked kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 to 4 jalapeños, seeded, stemmed, and diced (depending on how hot you want it)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Sliced jalapeños, for serving

Rinse and sort the beans. Place in a large pot or Dutch oven, cover with two inches of water, bring the pot to a boil then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and allow the beans to soak for an hour. After an hour when the beans have almost doubled in size, drain and rinse the beans and rinse the pot.

Place the pot back on the stove and add the oil. Heat up the oil on medium-low heat. Add the sausage, and while occasionally stirring, cook until it just begins to crisp and some of the fat is rendered, about 3-5 minutes. Add to the pot the onion and jalapeños and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Pour in the water and deglaze the pot, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any stuck bits.

Return the beans to the pot and add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch, about 6 more cups. Stir in the cilantro, chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, black pepper, and salt, turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to low and then cook partially covered until tender, which can take anywhere from 2 hours to 3 1/2 hours, depending on the age of the beans.

Keep an eye on the beans as they cook, making sure the liquid doesn’t get too low (if it does, add about 1/4 cup more water to the pot) and gently stir every half hour or so. I also like to taste the broth after 1 1/2 hours and see if the seasonings need any adjusting. You’ll know they’re done when the broth is rich and brown with most of the vegetables dissolved, and the beans, of course, are tender.

When the beans are done to your satisfaction, taste again and adjust the seasonings—at this point I usually add a few more dashes of salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Serve the beans warm topped with sliced jalapeños, though if you have the time, let the beans rest overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat, as they only get better the next day

8 servings

While I haven’t tested the recipe in a slow cooker (there is no room for one in my small kitchen), I think this recipe would work well in one. To make it, I would cook the sausage, jalapeños, onions, and garlic in a skillet before adding them along with the soaked pinto beans and the rest of the ingredients.



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DessertForTwo said...

Us Texans love our kielbasa! I think it's our Czech and German friends that settled in Texas :)

I'm such a bean freak, too. I think I eat some form of a bean or lentil daily.

Thanks for another great recipe :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

DesserForTwo--Hurray for our Czech and German friends! And hurray for beans!

Bill Giles said...

If you frequent eBay, you should look for an old West Bend Bean Crock. They can be had for $20 to $30 complete with heater, cord and lid. These have a ceramic pot and lid that sits on a heater base. It's probably a 3 quart pot, so it's not very big. The heater has only one setting, but I have had success using a tabletop lamp dimmer to control the heat. The heating element is only 95 watts. I have several and use them for beans, Quinoa, Oatmeal and Velveeta-Rotel dip. Do a search for "west bend bean" on eBay and you will find a number of them. You might have to reduce the size of the recipe, but they work very well and, of course, aren't made anymore.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Bill--Thanks for the tip! I've never heard of that bean pot before.

Liz said...

Another bean lover here - I make a pot of something every week and LOVE Rancho Gordo heirlooms - many varieties. I "refried" cranberry beans just this morning so I better head back West and make some of these pepper sausage beans :) !

Kielbasa was a family favorite in Ohio, where I grew up - also a "German-slav" area. I am now motivated to look for it here in Montana, but my Cajun step-Daddy sends me some spectacular sausage so that will no doubt work also.

Thanks for the recipe, Lisa!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Liz--Rancho Gordo has fantastic beans! I love them and often give them as gifts. I haven't tried making refried cranberry beans before, but I love that idea. And absolutely, any Cajun sausage would work well in this recipe, too.

Jo said...

I'm avidly going through your book and loving every single page of it. Just as I was reading your post on beans, I realized that what made your book so magnetic is the stories you tell with food. Keep on the good work, can't wait till your new book comes out. Till then, I'll definitely try this recipe, though I was going for refried beans today.. :)
Such a pity we can't find most of your ingredients here in France..

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jo--Thank you for the kind words about the book! As for the ingredients I feel for you! Though has some things, as do and (Ro-Tel!) and they will ship to France.

maninas said...

Looks delicious! I love spicy beans with sausage, so am bookmarking these to try soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm picking up some goat chorizo at the Austin Downtown farmers market tomorrow, so I'll fix these beans tomorrow (forecast high 80 degrees) and eat them on Sunday, after the cold front blows in (Sunday night's low 35 degrees.)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--That sounds like an excellent plan to stay warm. And I have to try that goat chorizo!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Maninas--Nothing better than beans with sausage!

Matthew said...

This sounds nice. I read so much about beans. Soak them. Don't soak them. Now people are talking about sort of "brining" beans. In the end I don't cook beans because I get confused. This sounds really good so I think I'll try these. Thanks.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Matthew--You're right, there are a ton of different opinions on the best way to cook beans. Even I change it up depending on my mood! That said, whether you soak or not (I usually quick soak and then rinse because that washes out the sugars that cause discomfort and helps the beans to cook more evenly) I've found the most important thing is to cook them at a low temperature and be patient. Don't worry--they're not difficult!

Matthew said...

Thanks for the advice. I'm gonna do it! :-)

TXgirl14 said...

This looks great! My local store usually carries pre-packaged, already smoked turkey legs, which I throw into my beans, but I will have to try adding some smoked sausage the next time I cook beans. Thanks for sharing another great recipe.

dracosgirl007 said...

I am an Alabama native that loves kielbasa! I can thank my Czech Grandmother, who happens to be from West, Texas for that.
Oh, and by the way West has the absolute best kolache in Texas. Your recipe is the closest one I have ever found that brings back those wonderful memories from my childhood.
Thanks for all of your recipes and wonderful stories about my second home!

Liz said...

I saw Matthew's comment and can't resist adding this link:

A fun video made by the owner of Rancho Gordo about cooking beans. There is also a step by step text and a number of recipes. I have no connection with Rancho Gordo except that I LOVE their beans and think they are fresh and so more flavorful than most store beans.

Lisa - your method is almost exactly what Steve Sando (RG) outlines: rinse, quick soak.

AND, while you can make a huge pot of beans and they freeze very well, I tend to make smaller quantities since I enjoy many varieties. Lots of options!

Kris said...

I THOUGHT I had some kielbasa in the freezer, but I couldn't find it, so I used a pound or so of my husband's smoked pork shoulder. We are fortunate enough get our dried beans right from the farmer - used a combo of pinto and cranberry beans. I made this today, for dinner later in the week, and, after sampling, I can't wait. Delicious - thanks, Lisa!

Eric said...

Beans are a regular on our TX table. Everyone hear loves 'em. I love your use of smoked paprika for that added smoky punch. I need to give that a try on the next batch (probably later this week).

We regularly add smoked sausage of some kind. For an added kick try smoked Andouille. A couple of other sources of smoked meats that are widely available and make good additions to beans are smoked pork chops and smoked ham hocks. You get more smoke with the hocks, but less meat to throw back in the pot with the beans after picking them over.

Jessica Holmes said...

Oh these beans look amazing. I'm from Australia and am having a hard time tracking down kiebasa sausage, any alternative suggestions?

Sandra said...

Love me some spicy beans. I've never cooked beans before but you inspired me to buy some and try this out. What brand of sausage do you like? I never can seem to find one that I really like.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

TXgirl14--Oh! I'll have to keep an eye out for pre-smoked turkey legs. They'd be terrific in this as well as in collard greens.

Liz--What a great video. Thank you for sharing!

dracosgirl007--Thank you for the kind words. That's high praise my kolache recipe reminds you of West!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kris--I love that substitution. And how wonderful to have such a fresh source for beans!

Eric--Andouille and smoked hocks are a great addition, too!

Jessica--Any smoked sausage or meat that you can find in Australia should work.

Sandra--I'm a fan of any Texas brand that doesn't use MSG. We can't get any Texas brands here in NYC, sadly, so I use Wellshire Farms.

Alison said...

These babies are fan-freaking-tastic. And they make a LOT, which means we'll get to enjoy them another night and they'll taste even better!

Wendy Claughton said...

I've just made these for the weekend/weekday lunches, and they're amazing!

Jessica - I'm in Aus too, and I've made these and other pots of beans with a hot continental sausage, as well as with smoky chorizo. Depending on your palate you could use cacciatore (spelling?) or even, in a super pinch, kabana (we were all students once!). All of these are available in most local supermarkets.

Samba00 said...

Hi Lisa,

This is amazingly similar to my "whatever is in the pantry" bean recipe that I cook at least once a month, though I frequently throw in a rehydrated, pureed ancho or two.

Off topic, but Ninfa's on Navigation was fantastic! I'm so glad that I knew to go there from reading your blog these many years. Sadly, because of long work hours I haven't had a chance to check out your other recommendations.

Ah well. But tonight...the Rodeo!

Mer C. said...

I made this recipe this week and it was delicious. It was even better the next day, which was almost too good to believe. Thanks so much!

Shelley said...

I admire the Women of Iron Stomach on this blog.

I can't do all the spice!

Phillip Daulton said...

Oh Lisa! This is fabulous! I didn't have any smoked paprika, so I kicked in a bit of liquid smoke. This recipe is a keeper!

Jennifer Klodzinski Durnell said...

I made these yesterday and they were absolutely amazing. Thank you for continually providing us with such wonderful recipes!

Stina Kolling said...

Made this tonight for dinner with the following changes do to what I had in the cupboards: no cilantro, regular paprika instead of smoked, 2 cans of black beans & 1 can of pinto beans, sodium-reduced kielbasa, and 2 habaneros (with seeds) instead of jalapenos. INCREDIBLY GOOD. Lovelovelove! This recipe is a keeper!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like home. Great piece and really inspiring as Thanksgiving draws near. Beans and smoked smoked sausage with cornbread will be part of the meal, for sure. Thanks!

Melissa said...

Made this last night. We LOVED it. Thanks for a great new recipe for my archive, Lisa!

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