Friday, January 10, 2014

The Three Bs

Sweet and Smoky Beans with Beer and Bacon
I love beans. I could eat them every day and never get bored. Flavorful, versatile, and budget-friendly, beans are a nutritional home run! They are naturally low in fat, protein-packed, and full of iron, folate, fiber, and B vitamins . . . and did I mention they are delicious? One of our household goals in 2014 is to be more budget-conscious (particularly where trips to the grocery store are concerned) and beans are a great staple to include in the rotation. Slow-cooked with an inexpensive cut of meat or as the backbone to a tasty vegetarian chili, these little babies will keep our bellies and wallets full.  I was craving something a little sweet, a little spicy, and very meaty the other night and came up with this delicious winter dish. Using a coupon and timing the sale just right, I got a hold of an organic pork tenderloin for less than $5 and added some of my pantry ingredients. It wasn't exactly a "quick" dinner, but it was easy and delicious. Slow cooking inexpensive cuts is a great way to get tender,  flavorful meat on a budget. While I cooked it over low heat in my Dutch oven, this could easily be made in a Crock Pot. Coming home to hot dinner? Yes please!

- 1 lb. dried pinto beans, rinsed then soaked overnight in cold water 
- 6 slices smoky bacon, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. chopped chili peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 pork tenderloin, cut into 2" chunks and sprinkled with salt and pepper
- 1 onion, peeled and roughly riced
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 20 oz. of ale (I used a sour cherry ale - worked great, but use what you have/like)
- 3 c. chicken broth
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
- 2 Tbsp. ketchup
- 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- sour cream, avocado, tortilla chips or crusty bread for serving

Cook bacon in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium heat until the fat begins to render. Remove from heat with slotted spoon and add olive oil to pan. Using tongs, arrange pork chunks in a single layer in hot pot. Allow meat to brown on each side (about a minute per side). Remove from heat and add chopped onion. Stir onion in rendered bacon fat and olive oil until it begins to soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Then turn up heat and pour ale into the pot. Deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon.

Return bacon and pork chunks to pot. Drain beans from their soaking liquid and rinse in cold water. Add beans to pot with chicken broth, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, mustard, ketchup, chilis in their sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, brown sugar, and paprika. Stir all ingredients to combine and raise the heat to high.

Once the mixture starts to boil, partially cover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow beans to simmer for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. (You will find after about the first hour the meat will become tough . .  don't despair! The connective tissues will break down and the meat will become incredibly tender with more time and low heat.)

After the first hour and a half, check on the meat and beans, give it a good stir and season liberally with salt and pepper. Taste. Return the pot to heat and allow it to simmer an additional half hour or so. Check again, at this point he meat should shred easily with a wooden spoon - shred meat chunks and remove from heat.

Serve up with sliced avocado and sour cream if desired. (Matt had his with a little grated cheddar cheese - also yummy!) It's great with bread or tortilla chips! Feeds a hungry army of eaters! Beer . . . beans . . . AND bacon . . . what's not to like?


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