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).