From “The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking” by Cheryl & Bill Jamison (William Morrow, $24.95).
2 cups dried pinto beans
2 12-ounce bottles or cans beer, Mexican if you have it
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 generous teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 teaspoon coarse salt, either kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
Place the beans in a stockpot or large, heavy saucepan. Cover them with the beer, vinegar and 5 cups water. Plan on a total cooking time of 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Bring the beans just to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered. After about 1 hour, stir the beans up from the bottom and check the water level. If there isn’t at least 1 inch more water than beans, add enough hot water to bring it up to that level. Check the beans after another 30 minutes, repeating the process. Meanwhile, warm the lard in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened and just lightly colored, about 5 minutes.
Check the beans after another 30 minutes, stirring up from the bottom and checking the water level. Stir the onion-garlic mixture, pepper and salt into the beans. Continue cooking, checking the beans every 15 minutes, stirring and keeping the water level just above the beans. There should be extra liquid at the completion of the cooking time, but the beans should not be watery. If you wish, remove 1/2 to 1 cup of the beans, mash them, and return them to the pot for a thicker liquid. Correct the seasoning if needed. Serve warm, spooning out the beans with some of the liquid in each portion. Serves 6.
Party-Time Dip: Serve soupy beans in little bowls or ramekins that can fit on dinner plates. If you don’t have anything that seems quite right, use coffee cups.
Pinquitos, Santa Maria Style: In Santa Maria, Calif., this side is made with the renowned local pink beans known as pinquitos. Use them if you can find them, but otherwise substitute pintos. Eliminate the lard or oil. Instead, fry 3/4 pound chopped bacon in a medium skillet. When limp, stir in 2 minced onions rather than one and decrease the garlic to 1 or 2 cloves. Leave out the pepper, but add the salt. When you stir in the onion-garlic mixture, add one 8-ounce can tomato sauce and 1/2 cup diced mild green chiles. If you want more zip, opt for a few shakes of Tabasco sauce.
Per serving: 289 calories; 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 16 percent calories from fat); 45 g carbohydrates; 4 mg cholesterol; 332 mg sodium; 14 g protein; 16 g fiber.