Pinto Bean Relish
This started as a relish for my Santa Maria Tri-Tip but really has a life of it’s own. As mentioned, it goes great as a BBQ topper, or just as a stand-alone side dish. Its Mexican-American “cowboy food” and in particular has it’s roots in the cattle country around Santa Maria, California.
The basic ingredients are: Bacon, sweet onion, a mild chile (or two), pinto beans, and a few spices. As a bonus it requires minimal intervention so it can be made alongside grilling, rather than before.
- 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon (I like apple-wood smoked, but it doesn’t matter that much)
- One medium sweet onion
- One Mild-ish chile. I’ve had good luck with Anaheims, but you can get as brave with the heat as you want, I think, without messing with the flavor
- 1 15oz can of pinto beans
- 1/4 Tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp pepper
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
To start with, get your mise en place together. This is a fancy way of saying cut all the things so you don’t have to while you’re cooking. Cut up a medium onion and chile as finely as you can and set aside. Also, drain and rinse a can of pinto beans and set that aside (in a separate bowl).
A quick note on chiles. I prefer Anaheims for this dish as they have a lot of flavor without a lot of heat, making it acceptable to most palates. Adjust your chile, or the amount of cayenne later to get the amount of heat you want.
Next, make some bacon, and there are a couple of ways to do this. For a one-pot dish, chop up a half-pound or so of bacon into little bits, and start that cooking in a 2qt saucepan. When bacon is almost crispy, but still soft, take it out of the pan and set it aside, leaving the bacon grease in the pan. Alternately you can cook the bacon in the oven, set aside the bacon, and drain the grease into a saucepan (chop the bacon once it cools).
Next, to the saucepan, add the onions and the chile, and cook them until they soften. Season with a pinch of salt, a small palm full of the pepper, cayenne, and maybe a palm and a half of chili powder- to taste basically. Ideally there’ll be a mild chili aroma alongside a hint of bacon and onions. None of them should really overpower the others.
Once the onions and peppers are soft, add the pinto beans and heat everything through. The beans should soften a bit, but not get mushy. Turn down the heat to low and add the bacon back in. Stir for a minuite or two until the bacon gets incorporated, then turn off the heat and let it cool a bit while the meat finishes.