From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I found three contenders for the beans I was asked to prepare for the barbecue today. When I learned that burgers and bratwurst were to be the main feature of the "cue", any plans for an upscale dish were discarded and, despite the Silver Fox's insistence that cassoulet would be perfect, I exercised my veto power and narrowed my search to what I hoped would be American barbecue favorites. Trouble is, I don't have a lot of recipes for beans and I don't make them often. Tea may work for two, but beans, when there are just two diners at the table, requires a commitment I'm not willing to make on a regular basis. So, of course, luck of the draw being what it is, I was the person asked to bring beans to barbecue where we will be meeting our new neighbors. I wanted them to be especially good because these folks don't know that I can cook, and I wanted their first impression of my abilities to be positive. While this will come as no surprise to those who know me, I ended up making a big deal about something that should have been really simple. I found and tested three recipes for good old American beans and, as it turned out, all three were exceptional. I decided my first feature would be the Cowboy Beans because they will go so well with a simple barbecue menu. These beans are sweet and have some heat, and I think they will appeal to anyone who likes beans with their burgers and brats. The recipe, which comes from America's Test Kitchen is clear and simple to follow, so you'll have no trouble duplicating their results, but do be sure to use a strong cup of coffee and a barbecue sauce that you are familiar with. The trick with these simple recipes is to layer flavors wherever you can, so be sure your ingredients are up to muster. These beans can be made several days before you plan to serve them, so they are definitely hostess friendly. I hope you'll give them a try. Hot and sweet is hard to beat. Here is the recipe.
Cowboy Baked Beans...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of America's Test Kitchen
1 pound dried pinto beans or dried navy beans, washed and picked clean of any debris
4 slices bacon, chopped fine (about 4 ounces)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
4-1/2 cups water
1 cup strong black coffee
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons prepared brown mustard (such as Gulden's)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce + 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, divided use
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper
1) Soak beans overnight -OR- place beans and 6 cups water in large Dutch oven. Bring to boil over high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat, cover and allow beans to sit for 1 hour. Drain beans. Clean and dry pot.
2) Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees F. Add bacon to pot and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in onion and cook until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add drained beans, water, and coffee. Bring to simmer over high heat and cook for 10 minutes. Add brown sugar, mustard, 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, Tabasco sauce and 2 teaspoons salt. Return to boil over high heat, cover pot and transfer to oven.
3) Cook until beans are just tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Remove lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened to syrupy consistency, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Remove from oven, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Yield: 4 to 6 main course servings.
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