Cornbread Smothered Pinto Beans

November 15th, 2010  |  Published in All, Grand Grains, Weeknight Recipes  |  9 Comments

I have a list about five miles long of recipes I have marked as ‘to-make’.  It’s not a strict and systematic first-in-first-out queue, but more or less I try to start at the beginning and end at the end.  I add to it fairly often, and try to consult it at least every month or so to remind myself of all the recipes that at one point or another inspired me enough to add it to my list.  I’ll admit that I am better at adding things than I am at checking them off, but I do fully intend to make my way through each and every recipe on my ‘to-make’ list at some point in my life.

The list resides in an elastic bound moleskine that dates back to when I first got interested in cooking in 2006.  It’s a collection of recipes from cookbooks, food blogs, newspapers, and friends.  If it’s from a cookbook I note the title and the page number;  if it’s from a blog or a newspaper I note the url; if it’s a recipe from a friend I either attach the recipe itself or make a note of the title of the email in which I received it.  I like to think of it as my modern equivalent of the wooden recipe box that many of our grandmothers used to keep.

This is one of the recipes on my ‘to-make’ list, and comes from the lovely and very approachable cookbook “Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly” by Joan E. Aller, which is all about cooking in southern Appalachia, focusing especially on B&Bs.  Though the recipe seems lovely on its own, once I started making it, I couldn’t help but add a little this and that, especially to the beans since I love the humble pinto and wanted them to shine.

Whether you make this now or add it to your own ‘to-make’ list, I hope you enjoy it!

Cornbread Smothered Pinto Beans
Inspired by “Tennessee Style Corn Pone” in “Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly” by Joan E. Aller

Pinto Beans
2 1/2 c. cooked pinto beans (homemade, from about 1 c. dried beans, or store bought)
2 T. rendered bacon fat, butter, or oil
1 small (fist-sized or smaller) onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. molasses
1/2 t. cayenne
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 -1/2 c. bean cooking liquid or water
1 1/2 t. red wine vinegar

Cornbread Topping
1 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 c. buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T. butter, melted.

Special Equipment: 9 inch cast iron skillet

Preheat the oven to 400.

Melt the bacon fat, butter, or oil in the cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, molasses, cayenne, chili powder, salt, and pepper and mix well.  Add enough bean cooking liquid or water so that the mixture is slightly soupy.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer mixture for about 8-10 minutes.  Add the red wine vinegar, and adjust seasonings.  Remove from heat and spread the beans into an even layer in the skillet.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and melted butter.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.  The batter will be soupy.  Pour batter over the beans in the skillet and smooth the top.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden, the cornbread starts to pull away from the skillet at the sides, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then slice into wedges and serve.  Enjoy!

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