Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oven Baked Beans

One thing that nearly everyone in my family loves is baked beans.  I have a few daughters who will gladly open a can of baked beans, microwave them, and eat them for snack.  In my research, I stumbled across Alton Brown's The Once and Future Bean recipe.  The reviews were very positive, plus I adore Alton Brown, so I put on the "recipes to try" list.

As usual, I discovered that morning that I did not have exactly all the right ingredients, so there was some substitution to be done.  In lieu of the great white beans, I quick soaked a bag of navy beans before I started the recipe.

First, you put the chopped bacon, onion and jalapenos in a large dutch oven or other ovenproof, heavy pot. I chopped the bacon while it was still mostly frozen because I find raw bacon really hard to cut.  We did not have whole jalapenos so I used four slices of pickled, jarred jalapenos.  I removed the seeds in an attempt to make it less hot.  According to Alton's directions, you cook this together for about 5 minutes, until the bacon has released enough fat to soften the onions.  This seemed like a really short cooking time so I continued to cook it a little longer before moving on to the next step.

While the bacon is cooking, drain the beans and catch the soaking liquid. A glass measuring bowl is perfect for this because you are going to be measuring the liquid.  Once you have drained all the beans, add vegetable or chicken stock to your bean liquid until you have four cups of liquid.  I used vegetable stock because I didn't have chicken stock and vegetable stock is faster to make.

Add the molasses, tomato paste and brown sugar.  I was using double strength tomato paste, so I used half as much as the originally recipe listed.  This started smelling good almost immediately!  Stir together and inhale deeply.

Add the beans to the pot, then the liquid.  Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil on the stove top.  Place your heavy, close-fitting lid on top and place the whole thing in a 250 degree oven.

Allow to bake for 6-8 hours, until all the liquid is absorbed and the beans are infused with that awesome baked bean flavor.  Remove the lid and...

The Verdict

I think this recipe has a lot of potential.  I ate two servings, but I spent the whole time thinking of how to tweak this for next time.  I thought the jalapenos had a pronounced flavor that wasn't necessary.  Maybe fewer, maybe none, maybe diced green chilis next time.  I also thought that it could have been sweeter.  (I like my beans sweet!)  More molasses and/or brown sugar.  There seemed to be a lot of bacon in the mixture but not that much bacon flavor.  I don't know if that was because I chopped the bacon so small.  Also, I would have loved to have some more onions in there.

The dreamy husband had several servings and said he liked them.  The bean children had a bit but not as much as they would have eaten out of a can.

I will definitely make these again!

Oven Baked Beans, serves 8 or so

one pound dried navy beans, soaked
12 ounces of chopped bacon
one chopped onion
four slices pickled jalapenos, seeds removed and chopped
one-half cup molasses
one-half cup dark brown sugar
one-quarter cup double strength tomato paste, or one-half cup regular tomato paste
vegetable or chicken stock
salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Place bacon, onion and jalapeno in a dutch oven or large, oven-proof pot with a close fitting lid.  Cook on stove, on medium heat, until the bacon is starting to look at little cooked, about five minutes.

Drain the beans and reserve the soaking liquid.  Measure the soaking liquid and add enough stock to make four cups of liquid.

Add the molasses, brown sugar and tomato paste.  Stir thoroughly.

Add the beans and reserved liquid.  Bring the mixture to a low boil on the stove.

Place the lid on the pot and put the entire pot in the oven.  Cook for 6-8 hours, until the beans are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

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