I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! We had a lovely weekend away at my father-in-law's cabin---it was very relaxing. Now we're home in the real world where there is laundry to fold, floors to mop, and dinner to prepare.
Although summer is prime grilling time, I really like to plug in the slow cooker for hassle-free side dishes on the nights we grill. I made cowboy beans last week, and although we ended up eating them as a main course, they would taste fantastic alongside a barbecued burger, steak, or chicken leg.
We don't have a fancy tent-trailer thing for camping, but if we did, we'd definitely bring the slow cooker along the way Mir does for a lovely pot of beans at the end of a packed day of hiking and fishing.
The difference between Cowboy Beans and a traditional chili is the twangy flavor that comes from the Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. The more you add, the twangier it becomes. mmm.
1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey (optional)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins, made in the USA is gluten free)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10-ounce) can Rotel, or traditional chopped tomatoes, your choice
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
7 cups water
sliced jalapenos, optional
Serves 8-10 as a side dish, or 5 as a main course. Sort pinto beans, and soak overnight in lots of fresh water. If you live in a climate where the house gets terribly hot overnight, put the beans in the refrigerator to soak to keep icky bacteria from accumulating.
In the morning, drain your beans, and pick out any that have split open, or look discolored and shrively.
Pour into a 6 quart slow cooker. Brown hamburger and onion on the stove, and drain fat. While the meat is cooking, add the rest of the ingredients into your slow cooker. Start with 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. Add the meat, and top with 7 cups of fresh water. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for about 6. My beans took 6 hours on high to tenderize, and then they sat on warm for another 3 hours. We're at sea level. If you live in a higher altitude, your beans will take longer to soften.
Taste the beans. If you'd like your beans to have more of a tang, add some more Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. Top with sliced jalapenos, if desired.
We all liked these beans a lot. I did add a bit more Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar, and the tang was pleasantly pronounced. I also liked how the Worcestershire sauce added a dark color to the broth. The kids doctored their bowls with lots of shredded cheese and sour cream. I had a bowl for lunch the next day alongside an In N' Out cheeseburger. It was a wonderful meal.
I get a kick at how the white dots on pinto beans completely disappear after cooking. You can't even find one!
if you'd like some more slow cooker side dishes for your next cookout:
corn on the cob
sweet potatoes with chili, cumin, and lime
Boston baked beans