December 03, 2010

Zesty Baked Beans

When I decided last weekend to barbecue a couple racks of ribs, I also decided to make some baked beans to go with them.  There are lots of ways to cook baked beans, and a lot of them turn out pretty good. but I knew I wanted something a bit more interesting than the typical "toss a couple cans of pork and beans in a casserole with an onion, some brown sugar and a bit of molasses" baked beans. 

I thought a lot about what sort of beans to include.  I thought baked beans based on chili beans might be interesting, but they might end up tasting too little like baked to really go with the ribs.  Finally I realized that rather than use just one kind of bean, it might make for a more interesting dish, in terms of flavor, texture and appearance, to use a mix of beans.   Once I came up with that, the spices and sauce ingredients were fairly obvious, though at the last minute I decided the dish needed a bit of chipotle zing.

From there, it was just a matter of coming up with some starting ratios and adjusting things as I went to get the right mix of flavors, the right level of heat and so forth.   The result... well, I would have to say, these are among the best baked beans you're likely to find (or make) anywhere.  They went great with the ribs.  I think I'll be making these often; in fact, I'm probably going to bring some to my next work potluck.

Zesty Baked Beans

yield - 12 side-dish servings

1/2     pound bacon
1        large white onion, chopped fine
2        cans pork and beans, undrained
1        can chili beans, undrained
1        can black beans, drained and rinsed
1        can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1        cup packed brown sugar
1/2     cup barbecue sauce
1/4     cup molasses
1        tablespoon diced chipotle pepper + 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 1/2  teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2  teaspoon mustard powder
1        teaspoon oregano, crushed
1/8     teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Fry bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp.  Fry in batches, and remove cooked bacon to a plate covered with paper towels.

Drain and discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon grease.   Reheat the bacon grease and add the onions.  Cook, stirring often, until the onions start to brown.  Meanwhile, break the bacon into one-inch pieces.

Ready to go into the oven.

When the onions have lightly browned, add the other ingredients.  Stir to mix, then bake uncovered 2 1/2-3 hours or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.  Serve.

Fresh out of the oven.

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