Happy Pony Express Day! Let’s celebrate with a bit of fare from the Wagon Train Trail, shall we? I was first introduced to these spicy, flavor-packed beans at a local Sedona Restaurant years ago and they were excellent, no doubt, but I had to come home and recreate my own version; Of course, incorporating a few twists and turns to pack the flavor punch I insist upon in my cooking.
My Cowboy Beans are a hearty meal in themselves served with fresh baked cornbread. They are rich, sweet and perfectly spiced; made with a dark beer reduction and plenty of fine-quality BBQ sauce, brown sugar and molasses. The raw heat and tang are from hot sauce, raw organic apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cilantro. The finest quality beans to create an impeccable 5-bean medley plus plenty of beef and smoky applewood-smoked bacon for an impeccable smoky flavor. The sweetest veggies to include chopped sweet Vidalia onion and sweet red bell pepper along with a handful of chopped green onions for some extra color, flavor and crunch. A perfect blend of spices to include both ancho and chipotle chili powders, garlic powder and cumin. And, finally, a cook time of 90 minutes to ensure perfect oven-baked baked beans in a decadent, top-shelf sauce. Serves a crowd, but for smaller portions, simply cut the entire recipe in half.
2 (12-ounce) bottles dark beer
Meat, Bacon & Vegetable Sauté
½ pound Applewood smoked bacon, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
1 medium to large red bell pepper, diced
½ cup chopped green onions
Baked Bean Medley
2 (16-ounce) jars of fine-quality Boston-Style beans
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
1 (16-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 small can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (4-ounce) can green chiles, drained
Kosher salt & fresh coarse ground black pepper, to taste
Texas BBQ Baked Bean Sauce
1½ cups Beer Reduction
1 cup Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce
¾ cup ketchup
¾ cup unsulphured molasses
¾ cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon or spicy grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne pepper (hot sauce) to taste (a few dashes)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped fine
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 slices (about ½ pound) Applewood smoked bacon
4 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
Prepare the Beer Reduction: In a heavy saucepan over high heat, bring beer to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to simmer until reduced by half to 1½ cups, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease two 2-quart (9×13-inch) baking dishes.
Prepare the Bacon & Vegetable Sauté: In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the ground beef and bacon until browned and just about crispy, about 5 minutes. Reserve rendered bacon fat in pan. Add onion and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped red bell pepper and green onions; sauté until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the Baked Bean Medley: Combine beans and chiles in large bowl or stock pot; season with salt and pepper. Scrape bacon and vegetable mixture into beans. Season with salt and pepper; stir well to incorporate. Using rubber spatula, scrape and pour into bowl or stock pot and stir into bean mixture.
Prepare the Texas BBQ Baked Bean Sauce: Add all of the sauce ingredients to the bowl or stock pot with the bean mixture. Stir well to incorporate. Using rubber spatula, scrap and pour mixture, evenly dividing, into baking dishes.
Bake in preheated oven until sauce has thickened, is bubbling and cooked through, about 90 minutes. If desired, top each with four bacon slices and sprinkle light brown sugar over the bacon after 30 minutes of baking. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack to rest before serving, about 5 minutes. Serves: A LOT!