Easy Cowboy Beans

I was grilling up some St. Louis style ribs and needed a side dish. I first considered baked beans but no joy in my pantry. I then thought of another style of beans I could make instead – Cowboy Beans.

I didn’t have any dried pinto beans in the house, so I modified my recipe for Frijoles Charros (AKA Cowboy Beans) to use what I had in the pantry – canned pinto beans and tomatoes, dried herbs and some leftover ham. This is a terrific change to the usual baked beans – a little spicy with the onion, tomato and ham giving the broth depth. They go really well with ribs or carne asada.

Easy Cowboy Beans

2 slices of ham, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder, depending on preferred heat level
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (don’t throw out the can)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, fry up the ham. Once cooked, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the saucepan and sauté the onions for 5 to 10 minutes or until softened and golden. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on the seasonings and stir until combined and fragrant. Add in the beans and fill the bean can with water and stir that in, too.

Transfer to an oven safe casserole. Cook uncovered in a 350 degree F oven for an hour or until some of the liquid has been absorbed. I like mine to be a bit soupy but, if you want less liquid, stir and cook 15 minutes more.

Taste for seasonings and serve.

I take any leftovers and put them in the blender to make a bean puree that I then use as a replacement for refried beans with quesadillas or fajitas (or sometimes just eat with tortillas or chips as a dip).

Yummy!

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Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I spent the afternoon at the Fairgrounds Race Course New Orleans, where my quasi cousin, Nancy, had a horse racing. Here is a picture of He’s Dann Good (number 6) going full out but too far back to be in the money.

Unfortunately, none of my horses won, placed or showed. As it was a bit windy, I went home needing to warm up with some comfort food. For me, that means lots of melty cheese. I made a stovetop version of mac & cheese that is very creamy and delicious.

I recommend going to the deli section of your grocery store to get a block of white American cheese. It gives the perfect texture to the dish. For the rest of the cheese, I went with Gouda to bring it up to a pound of cheese but cheddar is equally delicious.

For me, this is a main course that serves three to four. If you’re using this as a side dish, you can serve at least six.

Stovetop Mac & Cheese

2 large eggs
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
10 ounce block American cheese, grated
6 ounces Gouda or sharp cheddar, grated

Whisk together in a small bowl the eggs, 1 cup milk, hot sauce, salt, black pepper and mustard mix. Set side.

In a large pot, place 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add in the elbow macaroni and a generous pinch of salt and cook until tender but still firm, about 9 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

Toss the butter in the pot with the macaroni and melt over low heat. By the handfuls, add 3/4’s of the cheese and stir until melted, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining milk and cheese and cook, stirring constantly for 5 to 10 minutes. Mac and Cheese should be smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately.

Reheat over the gentle heat of a double boiler.

Satsuma Brined and Grilled Lemon Sage Chicken

I have a serious amount of satsuma juice from my Dad’s tree, so I used a quart of it for a brine for the thighs from a 10lb bag of leg quarters. Of course, you can easily substitute orange juice or, if doing pork, switch to apple juice if you aren’t lucky enough to have satsuma juice at the ready.

The satsuma adds a brightness to the brine without adding too much acid plus the lemon goes really well with sage and chicken.

Satsuma Brined and Grilled Chicken

Brine:
1 quart water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 quart satsuma or orange juice
1 quart ice

Lemon Sage Wet Rub:

2 lemons, 1 of them zested
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring the water, salt, brown sugar and peppercorns to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat. Add in the satsuma (or orange) juice and ice cubes. Stir to melt the ice. Once the brine has cooled, add the meat and refrigerate. Brine for 12-24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine the morning before grilling and rinse it off. Place it uncovered in the fridge to dry the skin out a little.

About an hour before prepping the grill, pull out the chicken and let it sit on the counter. Set up the grill for indirect cooking with coals on two sides and some hickory chunks soaking.

To prepare the wet rub – combine the lemon zest and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Mince them together. Add the salt and chopped sage leaves and use the side of the knife to work the herbs into the garlic to make a paste. Place the paste in a bowl with the juice from one of the lemons and the pepper and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Rub over the chicken thighs.

Once the coals are ready, place the thighs skin side down on the center of the grate. After 10 minutes, flip them over and place thin slices from the remaining lemon on top. Continue to cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until done. Chicken thighs are at a safe temperature when they reach 165 degrees F. Because of the brining, you can let them go all the way to 170 degrees F without drying them out.

For serving, squeeze the lemon slice over the thigh for a bright hit of lemon.