Once the “aha” moment arrived, it was humbling to realize how clear it should have been all along. I’ve been wondering why in the world cooking the basics can be so darned difficult. For example, whipping up a new to me watermelon salad? Simple and delicious. Making potato salad? Years in the making. Roasted Dungeness Crab for the first time? Nailed it right off the bat. Deviled eggs that fly off the plate? Too many strike outs to even count.
Why does it take so long to get the classics down pat? Its because we each know what they should taste like. Take potato salad for example. You’ve had potato salad from the grocery store, from delis, at picnics, and barbecues all of your life. You know there are different styles and preferences, and you have a concept of what the perfect potato salad should taste like.
When making food for our 4th of July gathering, I realized that in the past year I’ve finally mastered a few more of the basics such as deviled eggs and potato salad. But I’m still not a fan of canned beans. At our most recent Gourmet Dinner Club event, the SubUrban Cowboy dinner, the hostess made the most amazing homemade baked beans. Now I knew it was a possible task. This recipe, adopted from one by Emeril, is an instant classic and will stay in rotation in these parts for years to come.
Beat the Heat “Baked” Beans
makes about 2 quarts
1 pound bacon, diced
2 cups onions, diced
1 TBS garlic, chopped
1 pound dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained or cooked with the quick method*
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
2 TBS dry mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* For the quick method for soaking beans, add beans to a pot and cover with water plus 3 more inches of water, cook until small bubbles appear, cover, and remove from heat for 1 hour.
1. Heat a large pot, add the bacon and cook until the edges start to crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the onions and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and beans and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat, stir in the chicken stock and bay leaves, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the beans for about 2 hours with a lid partially covering the pot. After 1 hour, stir the beans and remove the lid for the remainder of the cooking time if the amount of liquid needs to be reduced.
2. Add the molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and flavors have come together. Season the beans with salt and pepper, to taste, before serving.
- For a hint as to why these beans are so tasty, note what typical step is missing in the first line of the cooking directions. Righto, the bacon fat is never drained.
- The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of bourbon but I omitted it to play it safe the first time around.
- The beans were nice and sturdy and the sauce was just delicious!
- The finger licking ribs in the photo were smoked by my husband in the famous Smokasaurus. Serious yum!