Bacon-Simmered Pinto Beans

I recently pulled this recipe out of Bon Appetit - well, by recently I mean last May.  But with the piles of recipes I have going back 5 or 6 years, that is pretty recent to me.

Anyways, we love beans.  And Mexican food. And who doesn't love bacon?  And the recipe called for Pickled Red Onions, which I had been wanting to make for quite awhile. (Obviously, since we gave up meat for Lent, we made this a few weeks ago).

The Husband and I loved how these turned out.  They were delicious - perfect with the steak tacos we were having.  But in all honesty, these could be a meal all on their own.

Like any recipe that calls for dried beans, these take awhile to make.  But the majority of the time is inactive time (soaking overnight and simmering for two hours). 

The bacon flavor really permeates through these beans and finding a bacon chunk every other bite is a present every time.  The jalapenos give these some heat as well as the cayenne that I added (see my notes below).   

These make great leftovers - as they were almost even better the next day. 

A few notes:
- If you like spicy, do NOT remove the seeds of the jalapeno as the recipe directs. In fact, consider using 3 jalapenos.
- I used 6 garlic cloves instead of the 4 the recipe calls for.
- I added a small palmful of cayenne pepper (probably 1 1/2 tsps) to the onion, garlic and jalapeno mixture after it had been cooking for a few minutes.  Chili powder or ancho chile powder would work as well.
- The onions, cilantro and cheese are very important to this dish. Don't skimp here.
- I did not find Cotija cheese, so I used Feta which is a great alternative.

Bacon-Simmered Pinto Beans

1 1/2 lb.dried pinto beans (4 cups), rinsed
1 Tbsp.vegetable oil
4 slices thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
1onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded, minced, divided
Kosher salt
1/2 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled (4 oz.; for garnish)
Chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)
Pickled Onions (for garnish)

Place beans in a large pot. Add enough water to cover by 4". Let soak overnight. Drain beans.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in same large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon to pot and cook until crisp, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 Tbsp. drippings from pot. Add onion, garlic, and 1 minced jalapeño and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add drained beans to pot. Pour in enough water to cover beans by 2" (about 8 cups). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more water by 1/2-cupfuls if dry, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Stir in remaining jalapeño and reserved bacon. Season to taste with salt.

DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving, adding additional water as needed if dry.

Transfer beans to a large bowl. Sprinkle with cheese and cilantro and serve with pickled onions.