Ball Game-Worthy Oven-Braised Beans
It’s come to my attention that this is a big weekend in pro football world. Mister MA tells me there’s a slew of playoff games taking place both Saturday and Sunday. (Oh goodie, she replies, wondering about that overdue date with her sock drawer.)
He delivered this exciting sports news update as we sat down over a pot of beans earlier in the week. I had tried out a new beanery method (oven braising) from a new book (“Ten” by Sheila Lukins) and was eager for his thoughts on the variation, which includes a mélange of spices reminiscent of Jamaican jerk seasoning.
If nothing else, I loved the aromatherapeutic results of the oven method; for a few hours, the whole house was filled with spicy oven perfume and cocooned me from the rain pounding outside the kitchen window. It felt easier than a stove top pot of beans, too; most of the work here is in the prep and then there’s little else to do but wait and keep an eye on the prize.
Although the original recipe calls for a ham hock, I omitted to see if this heady broth of ginger, garlic, chile, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice would keep our taste buds plenty entertained without the meat – and it most certainly did. However, I garnished our bowls with a few slices of prosciutto begging to be used up, crisped up for a few minutes in a skillet for texture and salty tang. As we slurped away, with griddled corn tortillas in hand (a great companion here), Mister MA piped up.
“You know, you could serve this to a bunch of guys this weekend for football, and they’d love it. This is total guy’s food, and they’d never know there was no meat.” I have no idea if this was his smooth-operator way of telling me how he (translation: we) would be spending this weekend or if he was just being sweet.
Fingers crossed, I chose the latter.
Jerk Red Beans
Adapted from “10” by Sheila Lukins
KOD notes in parentheses
2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 shallots finely chopped
1 onion, chopped (I omitted, given all the shallots)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (about an inch long)
Fresh chile of choice, seeded and finely chopped (I used half of a Serrano, what was in the fridge)
1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups dried red kidney beans (Original amount in recipe is 1 cup)
2 cups stock of choice (I used water only, it’s what I had on hand)
1 ½ cups canned plum tomatoes, crushed
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce or your favorite hot sauce
2 dried bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
1 ham hock (optional, in my opinon)
Chopped scallions, shredded cheese, crème fraiche, crisped up prosciutto or bacon
In a large bowl or saucepan, cover beans with a few inches of water and allow to soak for at least two hours. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Have carrots, celery, shallots, onion, garlic, ginger, chile, sugar and spices prepped and ready to go in one bowl.
Combine broth (or water), Tabasco, bay leaves, thyme sprigs and 1 cup water in a large ovenproof casserole. (Lukins suggests adding tomatoes at this stage, but I delay that addition until after the beans have had a little time to cook. More on that in a bit.)
Bring mixture to a boil, and remove casserole from heat.
Add beans to hot mixture, plus the bowl of carrots, celery, etc. Add ham hock at this time, if using. Cover casserole, transfer to oven and bake until beans are almost tender, about 90 minutes. (After 45 minutes, add tomatoes; I’ve learned the hard way that if you add acid to beans right off the bat, they toughen up and never coax into tender morsels.)
Uncover pot and test beans for doneness. If using ham hock, remove, cut meat from bone and stir meat back into pot. Cover and cook until beans are tender but not mushy, up to another 30 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper – for two cups of beans, you’ll need about 1 teaspoon salt, maybe a tad more. Add gradually.
Makes at least six servings.
Serve with rice, your favorite cornbread or a handful of griddled corn tortillas.
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