If California had a state bean, it would be the pinquito. These flavorful little pink beans come exclusively from California's Central Coast and are traditionally served with the barbecued tri-tip that made the Santa Maria region famous. They are considered the essential side dish ladled into large bowls full of bothy goodness.

Rancho Gordo Pinquito Heirloom Beans

There are many legends about how these diminutive legumes arrived here in the golden state. Some say Spanish cowboys brought them here, others say migrant farm workers brought them into the state. Another, somewhat official version, says that in the 50s a local farmer got his hands on some from Mexico and convinced one of the town restaurants that they'd be a good addition to the menu. 

The beans are meaty in texture and they hold their shape even after hours of cooking but it's the flavor that keeps everyone coming back. Generations later they are still being prepared by that same Santa Maria restaurant and still being grown by that same family farm. You'll find dozens of recipes for Santa Maria Pinquitos online but at Jacko's they prepare them very simply with a bit of bacon, onion, garlic, salt an a little chili pepper, simmered low and slow for 5 to 6 hours on the stove.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of pinquitos (or King City Pink Beans, the other famous California pink bean)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of bacon diced
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced 
  • 1-3 chili peppers depending on how spicy you like it plus extra for serving
  • salt and pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Place the beans in a large clay pot or thick bottom dutch oven, cover with 3-4 inches of water and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and one bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until tender.
  2. Roast the chili peppers on the grill or the open flame of a gas burner until black and blistering all over.  Put the chilis while hot in a paper bag to steam.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, slice in half and scoop out the seeds and stems and discard. Dice the roasted pepper and set aside.
  3. Cook the bacon in a skillet until the fat has rendered and it is starting to brown. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and discard all but a tablespoon of the oil in the pan.
  4. Add the onions to the pan and sauté until soft and translucent but not brown (about 2 minutes), add the garlic and sauté for another minute. 
  5. Take a 1/2 cup of beans out of the pot and mash them into a rough paste and add them back into the pot. Add the chilis and onion, garlic and bacon to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes until the pot liquor has thickened and the beans are infused with all of the flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sliced jalapeños and cilantro.

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