Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little things make us happy

This is our newest toy:


Yes, that's a kitchen faucet. Our new kitchen faucet.

It may seem pretty ordinary to you, but the Blanco Semi-Professional model (because we're only semi-professionals, you know) is the best kitchen item we've bought all year. It beats out the long silicone-tipped tongs (purchased after I realized deep frying french fries isn't a good idea when you have itsy-bitsy tongs and your hands are dangerously close to the hot oil) and the cute jars I use to make pickles.

It's amazing because we put up with a broken builder's basic Delta faucet for a year. Our old faucet was stuck on a weak spray - we couldn't switch it back to the full stream anymore, so filling a pot of water or a watering can was a slooooow process. This new puppy has so much pressure that I was power-washing lettuce to the point that it needed extra spins in the salad spinner.

It was a good thing we got our new faucet installed because it had no problem tackling this glorious mess:


This was my first attempt ever at making baked beans. I violated the cardinal rule and tried this dish for the very first time the day we had guests coming for dinner. We were serving apple-cider glazed ribs with the Barefoot Contessa's roasted butternut squash salad, and it occurred to me the day before that baked beans would go well with the meal. I'm not particularly fond of baked beans so I think the husband was a bit taken aback when I offered to cook this as a side.

I first trotted off to Formaggio in search of salt pork. Turns out it's probably the only pork product that they don't carry. The closest substitution was either pancetta or guanciale. I went for a pound of guanciale since it was the fattier option of the two (and a few dollars cheaper). I was also hoping to buy Rancho Gordo beans, a supplier of dried heirloom bean varieties that reportedly taste far better than the run of the mill varieties. I'm a big fan of heirloom tomatoes, so I wanted to give the heirloom beans a try, but unfortunately they didn't carry the type of white navy bean that the recipe called for. Instead, I settled for a dried New England bean mix from Whole Foods.

I was intending to make a full recipe, but the husband suggested perhaps halving the quantities would still be a hearty amount, given how much other food we had to serve, so it was only half a pound of beans that soaked in water overnight. The next morning, when I started to assemble the rest of the ingredients for the 5 hours of cooking time, I realized the recipe called for a 1-to-1 ratio of salt pork to beans. I dutifully chopped up a half pound of guanciale to match the half pound of beans, but when it came time to put all of it together in the pot, I just couldn't add that much fat to that amount of beans. I ended up adding half of what the recipe recommended, and I'm very glad I did because it ended up being rich as all hell. I like my food to be fatty (though we'll see how my cholesterol's doing at my next check-up, gulp) but even this was a bit too much for me. I added 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar which helped the heaviness, but I think I'll be looking for a more southern-style baked beans recipe the next time I get the urge - I think I'm a sweet and sour, ketchup type of baked bean eater after all.


Boston-style Baked Beans
From Serious Eats

Ingredients


  • 1 pound dried white pea beans, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 6 cipollini or small onions, peeled
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 pound salt pork
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Directions
  • Drain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid, and place them in a large saucepan. Cover the beans with water and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, skim off any scum that has risen to the surface, and drain the beans, reserving the cooking water. Set the cooking liquid aside and transfer the beans to a heavy casserole or Dutch oven
  • Preheat the oven to 275ºF
  • Skewer 3 of the onions with a clove each and add them, with the remaining onions, to the beans. Cut the salt pork into 2-inch pieces and add to the beans. Mix the brown sugar, molasses, mustard powder, and salt with about 1 cup of the cooking liquid and pour over the beans and pork, stirring to mix. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to cover the beans and set the remaining liquid aside
  • Cover the beans and cook for 4 hours, checking from time to time to make sure that the beans are always covered with liquid, and adding more of the reserved cooking liquid as necessary. After 4 hours the beans should be just tender, but the cooking time will vary depending on the age of your dried beans; older ones will take longer to cook. Uncover the pan and continue to cook them for another hour to thicken the sauce and color the salt pork pieces. 

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

What a snazzy faucet! LOVE it!

These beans sound delicious.

I haven't been to Formaggio yet. I need to remedy that!

PharmaFoodie said...

I'm in the process of making maple baked beans from Ina Garten - intriguing since they have brown sugar, ketchup, Asian hot sauce and grated ginger in the sauce with maple syrup. I'll let you know how they turn out!

FK is a dangerous place - far too easy to spend a lot of money...

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