First, we made "Cowboy Beans." My recipe here is slightly modified from other versions that I have seen in the past. Basically, for those not familiar, cowboy beans are really smoky, stewed beans. Almost like a cross between a good bean chili and baked beans. This is actually very easy to make. Here is the recipe:
½ cup Diced Bacon
½ onion diced (any color is fine, to your taste)
5 cloves garlic minced
1.5 cups stock (chicken or beef)
2 cups black beans (divide into 2 batches of 1 cup each)
2 cups red kidney beans
1 cup white beans
1 cup fresh diced tomatoes
½ cup Spanish cured chorizo, sliced
2 sliced jalapenos
1 whole jalapeno, chunked for pureeing
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
Thyme and oregano
Cured chorizo is increasingly available at most grocery stores. Make sure to get the cured Spanish kind, not the fresh Mexican kind. The Spanish chorizo is actually ready to eat without cooking, but cooking actually does wonders for it. Spanish chorizo often comes as a u-shaped sausage (see left), and I cut mine into small discs. Have the onions, garlic, and jalapeno chopped and ready also when you start cooking.
First, render bacon and chorizo. The rendered fat from the chorizo is a beautiful red color, and it makes the final dish look great.
Once the fat is rendered, add onion/garlic and the sliced jalapenos. Allow these to become fragrant, and let the onions sweat but not caramelize. You can see how the beautiful colors of this dish begin to develop in this step.
While the onions are sweating, puree 1 cup of black beans with the chunked jalapeno plus the chili powder, paprika, and chipotle peppers. Depending on what your using for pureeing (blender vs. food processor), you may need to add some stock to get this mixture to be smooth. Use stock out of the 1.5 cups that you've set aside - all of that liquid is going into the dish, so as long as you use 1.5 cups total, it doesn't matter which step it is added in. Set the puree aside. Now that the onions/garlic are fragrant, it is time to add the thyme, the stock, and the rest of the beans. Just estimate how much thyme to put in - the leaves from a few sprigs really enlivens the dish.
Let the beans cook a little bit (2-4 minutes) to absorb the flavors already in the dish. Then, add the puree back to the dish. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. The dish is ready to serve at this point, but as with any stewed dish, the longer it simmers, the more the flavors meld. When you are ready to eat, uncover, add some chopped cilantro and oregano as well as salt and pepper to taste.
This is an attractive and delicious dish. It's substantive enough to eat as a stew, but it's also bright and colorful and serves as a great side dish to a steak or some other meat.
In addition to the Cowboy Beans, I also made a Texas Chipotle Slaw. This is a vinegar-based cole slaw with a bit of a kick. It's incredibly easy to make, and the only key is to allow enough time for the flavors to develop (a simple matter of leaving it in the fridge for ~4 hours). Here are the ingredients:
1 medium head of green cabbage, shredded
¼ medium head of red cabbage, shredded
2 jalapenos, finely diced
4 shredded carrots
½ cup sugar
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup oil (canola is good)
2 chipotles chopped with adobo sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
The amount of cabbage is obviously sort of approximate, but is roughly 10 cups all together. Simply combine everything and mix really well. Then give it 4 hours in the fridge. The result is a bright, sweet and spicy slaw that we all really enjoyed. The freshness and coolness of the slaw play really well with the heartiness of the beans for the record.