Friday, May 22, 2009

Fool Me Once, Shame On You...

We were having this big send-off party for our boss Tony who is leaving for a 2-month bicycle odyssey across America and I was asked to make baked beans. I make great baked beans, by the way. My recipe comes from a Boston pub that has been making the signature dish the same way since the Revolutionary War. Anyway, I didn't have the time to make them the proper way, so I decided to cheat and take the good things about the Boston recipe and add them to some canned beans and hope that I could get away with it. Here's how the crime unfolds:

Boston baked beans traditionally use salt pork, but that's best when stewed in the beanpot for 6 hours. I didn't have that kind of time, so I fried up 24 ounces of bacon instead. I picked cheap, fatty bacon because I had ulterior motives which I'll explain in a bit. It's important to cook bacon fully, but you don't want "bean bacon" to get crispy. Here's the before and after:

Normally when making baked beans, I'll put a half or whole onion on the bottom of the pot and let the long cook time soften it up. Again, I had to hurry the process so I quartered the onion and fried the pieces in the bacon fat. If you try this at home, do yourself a favor and save some of that bacon fat for the next time you make a pan of popcorn. You won't be disappointed. Also, be carful frying large pieces of onion this way, as they accumulate grease due to their cup like nature, and they tend to want to "dance" in the skillet. Cook 'em till they're translucent and soft.

Chop up the bacon but not the onions. Put that mixture in a crock pot and add four 28-ounce cans of baked beans. Your choice, but the plain varieties work best. Mix in about half a cup of molasses, 2 tablespoons of dry mustard, salt and pepper to taste and a little bit of magic juice (aka bacon grease) and set the crock pot on high for two hours to let the flavors congeal.

The result is a pot of sweet, meaty, stick-to-your-ribs baked beans that are pretty good, but nowhere near as good as the made from scratch variety. I'm sure I'll have to pay a penance to the gourmet gods for allowing these abomination beans into existence, but my coworkers all had high praise for them. Bacon wins again.


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