Baking Beans: What's Your Secret?
"Bring a side" is what our friend J told me when I insisted on bringing an edible contribution for his bon voyage cookout this weekend.
After last week's slow-cooked smoked ribs, I've still got the barbecue theme on the brain and decided on a batch of baked beans. For years, I couldn't stand them because they were either too sweet, too mushy or too salt-porky. When I finally got my lips around beans that were smoky, tangy and kind of spicy (like a good ole campfire), that's when I knew I hit the flavor jackpot.
Baked beans is everyday, everyman's (and woman's) food, and somewhere along the line, we've all encountered them in one incarnation or another depending on where we grew up.
If you're from upper New England or Canada, you might know them as maple syrupy sweet. Bostonians may have grown up with molasses-sweetened beans, a historical holdover from the rum-slave trade during colonial times. Down in Texas, they're known as cowboy beans, seasoned with ground beef, a variation on the 'franks n' beans" theme. Down south, you might hear of a mustard-y tang with pork flavoring, and if you're from the U.K., you might like yours tinned and on toast.
The recipe below, inspired by "Peace, Love and Barbecue," one of my favorite books on barbecue, draws on several regional influences, and I add a few of my own flavor notes as well.
Vegetarians, don't worry when you see the addition of bacon in the recipe; it is hardly necessary as I've come to realize and as long as you use a chipotle chile in adobo sauce, you'll get plenty of smoke that you'd otherwise get from the pig.
Since there are so many variations on the baked bean theme, I'd love to hear how you grew up eating them and how you fix'em now that you're all grown up. Recipes, stories and baked bean tips are all welcome.
Today is chat day; join me for this week's What's Cooking.
True-Blue Baked Beans
Inspired by "Peace Love and Barbecue" by Mike Mills
1 pound dried great northern beans (KOD note: I used thin-skinned cranberry beans from Rancho Gordo with great results. Pinto beans would be great, too.)
1 cup marinara sauce (alternatively, use ketchup, but be mindful of salt and corn syrup content)
¼ cup molasses
¾ cup-1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (alternatively, Picka Peppa sauce)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (you can use dry mustard)
1 teaspoon chili powder or smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
½ chipotle chile in adobe sauce, diced
4-6 slices bacon (KOD note: completely optional, in my opinion. You can get plenty of smoke from the chipotle chile, above.)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Place beans in a large saucepan and cover with water, two to three inches. Soak beans overnight.
The next day, drain and rinse beans. Return to pot and cover with fresh water by about four inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 90 minutes, or until beans are tender but not bursting open.
While beans are cooking, mix marinara sauce, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire, mustard, chili powder and cumin in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If using, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain bacon on paper towels, crumble it and set aside.
Add onion and garlic to bacon drippings and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about two minutes. Onion should still be a little crunchy.
If you are omitting bacon: substitute peanut oil to cook onion and garlic mixture.
Drain beans, reserving up to two cups of bean water. Pour beans into bowlful of sauce. Add onion (and bacon if using) and stir to combine. Add as much bean liquid as necessary.
Pour beans into a lightly oiled 13x9 baking dish and bake for one hour or until bubbly, about two hours. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to one week.
Makes 8-10 servings.
By Kim ODonnel |
May 27, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Beans and Legumes
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