Thursday, June 03, 2010

Led astray…

Mark Bittman is one of the few people outside my close friends and family that I trust almost unquestioningly. His How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian are my go to cookbooks, and his column in the New York Times inspires me on a pretty regular basis. (The 101 Simple Salads article was a particularly notable hit!) When I got an invitation to a barbecue earlier this week, I immediately thought of baked beans, and remembered a recipe I’d tried a while back from the aforementioned How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. The recipe is vegan, and includes kombu, the seaweed used to make dashi, the delicious broth in lots of Japanese soups. What I did not recall about the recipe, however, is that the cooking time is not correct.

Last night I put the beans (a mix of small kidneys and cranberry beans, both slightly larger than the called for navy beans, which should have been a red flag) into the crock pot. I left them for a bit, until they got as big as the crock pot and wouldn’t fit anymore. At that point I sautéed the onion and tomatoes, added the mustard and molasses, and combined everything with some water in a larger baking dish. I baked the beans for an hour, and then put them in the fridge for the night. I got up this morning (just before 6am; thank you, Walter) and put the beans back in the oven for another hour and a little bit. When it was time to leave I put them back in the fridge for the day and headed to school. At this point they had cooked for several hours in the crock pot and two hours in the oven. I anticipated 1-1.5 hours left to soft, creamy baked beans. I came home after my seminar and put them back in the oven. Two and a half hours later it was time for my barbecue and the beans were still vaguely crunchy! They cooked for a total of 4 hours in the oven (compared to the 3 hours described in the recipe) as well as in the crock pot and still weren’t done! I put them in the fridge, went to the barbecue (after picking up some ready-made salads at the grocery store), and had a great time. After I came home, I turned the oven back on, put the beans in, and went on a bike ride. (Don’t worry, Alicia was home with the oven on.) When I got back, they were just about done – they only cooked for 5+ hours and were finally ready. Without further ado:

Baked Beans
adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1/4 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes, mostly drained
1 5-inch piece kombu
1 pound dried beans
1/2 cup molasses
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight or get them started in a slow cooker for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 300F. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the onions. Stir until the onions are soft and golden. Add the tomatoes and stir until they smell good – another few minutes.

Add the kombu, molasses, and mustard, mixing well. Combine with the beans in an ovenproof pot or casserole or a cake pan, and add enough water to cover. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 2 hours. Stir and add water if necessary to cover the beans, and put them back in the oven until the beans are completely cooked, another 1-2 hours (this will vary a lot with the size of the beans).

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir well to help break up the kombu, then taste and add more molasses or mustard as necessary. Turn the oven up to 400F, and bake uncovered for 30 minutes so that the beans are creamy and the liquid has thickened. If they still taste crunchy, simply add a little more water, cover, and bake at 350F until they are done.

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