Saturday, September 5, 2009

Austin Baked Beans

Want to show up at the picnic or barbeque with baked beans that have been taken to a whole new level? These have some Texas-style twists in the seasoning and are truly outstanding. They are sure to impress the whole crowd.

To honor the great Sheila Lukins who passed away this week, this is an adaptation of one of her recipes. Sheila was an influential chef and food writer who co-wrote The Silver Palate series of cookbooks and authored three of her own, including U.S.A. Cookbook, which is where this particular recipe has been adapted from.

Her recipe for "Austin Baked Beans" is delectable, but to accommodate the health conscious and lighten up the dish without sacrificing flavor, I have modified it by omitting the bacon, pork, and ham from the original recipe. To replace the savory, smoky, salty sweet effect that they offer, I have added some seasoning changes.

Be sure to allow plenty of time to make this recipe. I like doing it a day ahead, so I can be sure the beans will get plenty of cooking time. If you are in a rush, you can buy canned beans, but you still must allow 2-3 hours to bake them in the sauce. It's worth it , I promise. These are iNsAneLy good!

Austin Baked Beans

1 lb dried navy beans (or 4 cans?)
3 T butter
1 large onion, diced

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1-28oz can diced tomatoes, drained with tomatoes in a bowl and reserved juices in another
2 T minced garlic
1 jalapeno, minced (I leave the seeds in so it's spicier. You can de-seed the pepper to keep it mild)

1 cup natural ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 T worcestershire (use a vegetarian one like Annie's if you are feeding a veg crowd)
2 t dry mustard

1 t thyme
1 T smoked chile powder (smoked paprika, chipotle powder, or whatever somewhat mild smoky seasoning you have)
2 T smoked sea salt (if you have some--if not you can compensate with smoked
chile powder)

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced small
sea salt to taste

Pour beans into a bowl and fill with water. Sort through, discarding any pebbles or debris, and place beans in a large pot. Fill with water and soak overnight or 6-8 hours. You can do the "quick soak method" written on the package, if you need to. If you have decided to use canned beans, drain and rinse and skip ahead to the next step.

After beans have soaked, drain and fill pot with water again. Boil 45 minutes, or until beans are tender. Skim off any foam as they boil and discard it. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a large pot and cook onion and peppers about 10 minutes, until browned a li
ttle bit. Add tomatoes (not reserved juice), garlic, and jalapeno and cook 5 more minutes. Add drained beans to the mixture.

Add all remaining ingredients except for apples, reserved tomato juice, and plain sea salt. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer, and taste for sweetness and smokiness. Adjust seasonings according to your own tastes. I like the sweetness and smokiness to be dominant at this point. The seasonings will blend and mellow as it cooks and you can adjust the salt at the end.

Transfer to a large casserole dish, cover, and bake in the oven for 2 hours. After this, you can move on to the next step, but not finish baking the last hour if you are taking it to a potluck. The last hour of cooking can be done as you reheat.

Remove from oven and stir in the apples and reserved tomato juice. Taste for salt and spice; adjust. Uncover and bake for 1 more hour.

If you are planning to bring these to a barbeque, transfer the beans to a grill-safe dish (such as cast iron or disposable aluminum). If there is ample grill space, heat and finish with the last hour of baking on the grill. It will really send the flavor over the top! Enjoy your last summer barbeque of 2009! Beanlicious!


EC said...

Looks yumm..thanks for visiting my blog

Nickps said...

These are so good. I've made them several times for bbq parties, and they always get rave reviews - even from people who talk smack about their own bean recipes