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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Homemade Baked Beans

So, I like beans.  They're good for you and super easy to make, not to mention tasty.  I profess to buying canned beans in tomato sauce for the most part, unfortunately.  

Everyone does though... they're pretty unilaterally accepted as definitive in the 'brown beans' department.

Maybe not if you live in Boston... but I don't... so yah...

Anyway, you've probably noticed my many posts and mentions of homemade bean stews, and chilis and the like, wherein I'll use raw (dry) beans.  I do that often, and they can be really quite delicious.  However those are usually all as part of a large dish with multiple ingredients.

This time I decided to try making just beans.

So, first, I soaked my beans for a few hours (overnight works too), and then boil them for about an hour or two (until a ratio of 3:1 water to beans gets absorbed/evaporated).

Dry beans can be tough, there really is no way to overcook them doing this.

Anyway, once soft and cooked, the beans got transferred to my cast iron dutch oven for baking later.

So, now to the prep.  While many things could theoretically work here, what I chose today was (in approximate order of concentration) tomato, white onion, bacon, garlic, chili (that's a habenero pepper, so less is more!), oregano (fresh), cumin (freshly ground), and salt.

Once that is all ready to go, start a saute pan going with some butter and a small splash of oil to stabilize the butter.

When ready, throw in the onion and cumin first, give that a head start of at least 3 or 4 minutes, and then throw in the garlic.

Once the onion has started to caramelize a little, remove the entire contents of this pan to a large blender or mixer.

Chop up the bacon (just 2 or 3 slices, don't go crazy on the bacon), and then fry that up in the same pan.  Turn and shake it often, and drain the fat when you can.

In the meantime, while that is cooking, add the chopped chili, tomato, and oregano to the mixer with the onion, garlic, cumin, and butter.

You know what to do!

Having been the first time I'd made a sauce like this, it just reminded me so much of butter chicken.  It has the same colour and consistency... it got me to thinking that someday I'll make my own version of that... some tandoori chicken, some masala, and maybe some fresh cilantro...mmmmmmmm.  

However, that is an adventure for another day!

Anyway, once that is nicely pureed, pour, scrape, and wipe every last speck you can out of there and into the pan.

Let that simmer for a while before adding it to the dutch oven and mixing it all up with the beans.

Once it's all mixed together, put on the lid, and bake it for a couple hours (or more) at about 350°F.

While this was going, I decided to whip up a quick batch of quinoa because I figured something blander would be nice to accompany what I was sure would be some very rich and hearty beans!

So, I let that cook up and then sit for a bit before dishing it up.

After a couple hours, the beans were delightfully baked, and thick.  They even looked a little browned.

Now, you all know that I am a gregarious advocate of homemade and 'from-scratch' cooking, and I sort of thought that these beans would be better than canned.  However nothing could have prepared me for just how much better they were.  There was so much intricacy and intermingling of flavours I found myself savouring every mouthful.

Paired with some quinoa, I felt that this was not only an extremely delicious and hearty meal, but also quite healthy.  There was some saturated fat from the butter and the bacon, but there were also so many healthy and natural ingredients in there.  Plus, you could always choose no bacon, and vegetable oil instead to little adverse difference.

Plus, this meal is incredibly balanced.  Even without the animal products, I suspect there is enough protein and iron in here to support any diet.

Anyway... enough extolling its health appeal... it was phenomenally delicious.

Definitely going to be making homemade beans more often!