Sunday, February 6, 2011

Superbowl beans

Our good friends Rick and Claudia always do a terrific superbowl party. They asked us to bring something - either bbq beans or a green bean casserole. I am not about to do a green bean casserole, so bbq beans it was. Mind you, I had never made any of those before either. However, I had heard that if you want to cook 'em a long time it must be in a slightly acid environment (think molasses, vinegar, brown sugar, etc.). The ingredients are a bit imprecise, but I hope this conveys the gist.
2 lbs pinto beans
Cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches
2T vegetable oil
2 yellow onions diced
2 red peppers diced
1 lb salt pork, gently rendered, fat discarded
3T Paprika
1T Chili powder
1 small can tomato paste
3 Ancho peppers
3 Dried Cayenne peppers
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 quart (32 Oz - US quart, not Imperial quart) chicken stock
12 oz brisket bbq trimmings
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 cups boiling water
6 slices smoky bacon, chopped into small strips and fried until crispy, discard the fat
1 red onion minced finely

Pick over the beans making sure there are no small stones or other bad things. Put them in a large bowl and cover with the cold water and leave to soak over night.

The next morning, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently saute the onion and red pepper until soft. Add the paprika and chili powder. Continue to saute for another couple of minutes.

Put the onions and peppers into the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the beans and the rendered salt pork. Fry the tomato paste in the same pan that you cooked the onions/peppers in until it turns a light brown colour. Warm the molasses, and mix with 1/2 the chicken stock and the first addition of cider vinegar. Use this mixture to deglaze the pan with the tomato paste, whisking to incorporate. Add this liquid + the dried peppers to the crockpot. Also add the bbq trimmings and the rest of the stock.

Turn the slow cooker on to the longest (in my case 10 hours) cook time. Check about 1/2 way through, and if the beans are a bit dry looking, make up a mixture of water, cider venegar and dark brown sugar. Stir that in to the mixture and check for the amount of liquid. It should not cover the beans, but should be clearly visible without moving the beans around.

After 10 hours, turn off the slow cooker and leave overnight. It will slowly come to room temp. 5 hours before serving, turn the slow cooker on again at the same setting as before. As the mixture is heating, add the finely diced red onion (raw) and the crispy bacon. Stir well to combine.

When the beans are hot again, they are ready to serve. Note you can add some salt/pepper to taste if you like, but I found the salt pork added just what was needed.

If I were making this again, I would add the beef trimmings in the second (warming) phase. They had given up too much of their flavor adding them so early.

As I said at the beginning, the proportions are just rough estimates. Your mileage may vary. Just remember to keep them with enough liquid, and to make sure there is enough acid to prevent the beans from going mushy.

These proved to be very popular indeed, and accompanied the meats, salads and other goodies that Rick and Claudia served.