“Landlord, bring us beans and bacon and a bottle of your finest Burgundy.” A whole head of garlic (unpeeled) added to a dish produces that sweet garlic flavor that expresses its sweet untampered nature.
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There’s a new porky related blog, porktheory. Check it out!
This recipe starts off with a few pounds of dried navy beans. I’ve come to the conclusion that keeping a bunch of these around is a great idea. They’ll never go bad, they’re super cheap, and you can do so much with them. Consider grabbing a few bags next time you’re at a supermarket.
The beans were covered with clean, cold water and left to soak overnight.
The next day, I added the beans to a large pot and again covered them with clean water. The pot was brought up to a boil, and then reduced to a simmer for a few hours until they were soft and giving.
Most of us have been told at some point in our culinary careers that salting beans will cause them to toughen. It’s incredible that this little bit of culinary mis-wisdom still lingers, for it couldn’t be further from the truth. A simple side-by-side test can prove to you conclusively that salting beans (both the water used to soak them in and the water used to cook them) actually tenderizes the skins.
It’s got to do with magnesium and calcium, two ions found in the bean skins that help keep the structure of the beans’ skin intact. When you soak the beans in salt water, sodium ions end up replacing some of the magnesium and calcium, effectively softening the skins. Your beans come out creamier, better seasoned, and have a much smaller likelihood of exploding while cooking.
The next time I make this recipe-and I will be making it again for sure-I’ll be salting the soaking and cooking water. Hooray for chemistry!
While the beans cooked, I placed a pig trotter and stock vegetables in another pot with just enough water to cover everything. I’ve made veal stock, fish stock, and chicken stock with great regularity. This would be the first time I ever made trotter stock.
By the time the beans were done cooking, the trotter stock was finished as well.
Now for the other starring ingredient, the bacon. This was a slab of pork belly that I cured at home. If you’ve never made your own bacon, it’s time to give it a shot.
Mr. Henderson instructs that the rind-or skin-should be removed from the bacon in one whole piece, because it’ll be used in the recipe later on.
The rest of the slab was cut into slices.
In my cast iron dutch oven, a few spoonfuls of duck fat were melted down…
… and the previously mentioned bacon rind was fried, releasing some of its fat and flavor in the process.
Likewise, the bacon slices were browned, their fat adding to the rind’s.
When the bacon was finished cooking, chopped onions, leeks and crushed canned tomatoes were all fried in the bacon fat for a while until everything was softened, and the tomatoes slightly sweetened. A few ladles of the trotter stock went into the pot at that point along with seasoning.
I drained the beans, and added them to the vegetable mix in the dutch oven.
Finally it was time to put everything together.
In the pot I cooked the beans, I placed the bacon rind at the very bottom, and covered it with the sauced beans. On top of that layer a few slices of bacon were added, then more beans, then two whole unpeeled heads of garlic and the pig trotters. From there more beans, more bacon were layered until I was out of both.
The trotter stock was slowly poured into the pot. I wanted just enough to cover everything. The pot was covered and placed in a medium hot oven for a few hours.
When enough time had passed I removed the lid and cooked the beans for another 30 minutes until a nice little crust had formed on top. The beans were done!
I’ve never been a big fan of baked beans. They’re usually way too sweet for my palate. But this recipe… wow. The sauce is just slightly sweet thanks to the tomatoes, but still unctuous and savory. The trotter stock adds so much to the overall dish it’s hard to explain. These are beans made for grown ups. Like the Arch Deluxe, but you know, good. Aside from trying the salting I mentioned above, the next time I’ll be adding more bacon. It’s always a little disappointing when you find out that the beans in your bowl are without a little bacon.
I can’t wait for it to get a little colder. This recipe is going to get made again, and again, and again. It’s even great in the morning with a fried egg on top!
And now, here’s what you really came for.
One down, forty four to go.