Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cajun Pinto Beans

Its January and it seems like everyone is craving soups and stews and warm comforting foods.  Seems like nothing takes the grey out of a day like a bowl of hot, home-made soup.  So I am not going to post a soup recipe HA!

Well this is sort of a soup I guess, but perhaps more of a side dish that I usually eat on its own.  We had a beautiful spiral sliced ham for New Year's and now I am left with perhaps the best part: the ham bone.  Whenever I am left with a ham bone I always start thinking of making pinto beans.

Somehow you just know these beans are going to be good when they start out with a meaty ham bone...

I absolutely crave pinto beans.  So much so, that I will often go to Bojangles and just order a large side of their pinto beans and a couple biscuits.  Bojangles pintos are absolutely delicious and I have worked for years to try to replicate them, without success, BUT I think this recipe is just as good, and satisfies that craving.  The secret is to make a good ham stock and then cook the beans in it.

I have also made this recipe in a vegetarian fashion and it is also very good, provided you use a good quality vegetable stock to make up for the lack of delicious, slow-cooked meaty ham broth (see what you vegetarians are missing?)  :)

I usually serve this over a bowl of basmati or jasmine rice and season generously with hot sauce (Frank's, Texas Pete or Crystal Hot Sauce are my faves).
 A Louisiana Classic...

So here it is, my recipe for Cajun Pinto beans.  I will include the vegetarian version and also two methods of cooking (Pressure Cooker vs. Stock Pot).

Cajun Pinto Beans
serves 12

Ham Stock
skip this if making vegetarian beans
1 Ham Bone (with meat and fat still clinging to it, or two meaty ham hocks
12 cups water

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 rib Celery, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium green pepper, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb dried pinto beans

for vegetarian version only
8 cups vegetable stock ( two cartons) plus 4 cups water

For Ham Stock:
Place combine ham bone and trimmings (or ham hocks) and 12 cups water in a stock pot or pressure cooker.  Bring to a simmer, cover and stew for 2 hours or until all meat falls easily from bone.  For pressure cooker, pressure cook ham for 30-40 minutes on high pressure.  For both methods, strain stock into a large bowl, discard bones but reserve meat.

In clean stock pot or pressure cooker, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion, celery and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, tomato paste, honey, thyme, salt and black and red pepper.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add beans and ham stock (or vegetable stock).  Cover and simmer for 3-4 hours or until tender (pressure cook for for 45 minutes, check beans for tenderness and add additional time if needed).  After cooking season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with steamed rice.

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