22 October 2012
Vegetarian baked beans
It's raining! Rain in California! Fall is actually here! HOORAY!
This is clearly the best possible time of the year to make a gigantic pan of delicious, hearty, warming goodness. I'm talking about baked beans.
Baked beans are traditionally made with navy beans or similar small white beans, plus onion, bacon, and a molasses-heavy sauce that would probably be excellent on barbecue. (Mental note: make a batch of actual barbecue sauce soon.) But the real essence of baked beans is the bean itself, or maybe the bean plus molasses. So, since our household is half vegetarian, we took out all the meat components and added in some liquid smoke and lemon juice. The result was more than satisfactory.
These take hours upon hours to cook, so they are excellent to make on a grey weekend when all you want to do is putter around the house. Nothing is better than a bubbling pot when it's cold and damp out, right? Soak the beans the night before, boil them in the morning, bake them right after lunch, and you should be all set by dinnertime. Bonus: delicious baked bean fumes delicately wafting through the house all day!
Vegetarian baked beans
Based on Boston Baked Beans
2 cups dry white beans
3 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
several good shakes of liquid smoke
juice of 1/2 lemon
Start the day before you want to eat by sorting and soaking about two cups of dry white beans. Leave them overnight, loosely covered. The next day, change out the water and simmer the beans with a bay leaf until tender. Depending on the age of your beans, this can take up to two hours. When done, drain your beans, reserving the broth. You can also cook your beans in advance and refrigerate them, or substitute canned beans.
When you're ready to make the beans, preheat your oven to 325F/165C.
Break out a dutch oven or other large, deep, oven-safe casserole dish. Chop up a large yellow onion. Fill the dutch oven with alternating layers of beans and onion, ending with beans.
Next, make the sauce. In a pan, combine the molasses, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, pepper, mustard, liquid smoke, and lemon juice. Smoke seasoning is really potent, so be careful with it! Add a little at a time, and definitely don't drop the bottle.
Bring the pan of sauce to a boil, stir to dissolve any recalcitrant lumps of sugar, and pour it all over the beans. Then add enough of your bean broth to cover the beans entirely. (Freeze the leftover bean broth and use it in soups later.)
Dot the top of your bean dish with chunks of butter or a scattered drizzle of olive oil. Don't skip this--the fat in the oil or butter is going to carry the flavors of the sauce and onion to make the whole dish meld together. It's taking the place of the bacon fat in the original recipe.
Bake your beans, covered, for about two hours. Then take off the lid, check your liquid level, and continue to cook for another hour or two, or until the beans are amazing and delicious. It's done when you think it's done.
Hooray! Baked beans!
We had our baked beans over bowls of rice, but I would definitely be up for a biscuit and gravy or cornbread application. Hearty greens, either steamed or sauteed, would be perfect on the side.
What dishes do you love to make when it's dank and rainy out?