Summer comfort food

The woman at right is my Aunt Nancy.

Just below her is one of the many, many reasons I love her.

My slow-cooker and I have a Machiavellian relationship. I want desperately to love it, but I fear it. My reasoning for this is, like many of my food fears, mostly irrational. Shortly after acquiring said slow-cooker, I created a disappointingly leathery pot roast. From that day forth until two or three nights ago, I’ve been wary of the beast, and it has sat in a cabinet. However, a few days ago I embarked on Nancy’s slow-cooker baked beans recipe that I’ve adored and coveted for a number of years now, and I can say with surety that I’m no longer afraid (I think), as it came out perfectly.

The mixture of beans is great, and despite the 6 hours of cooking time, they keep their texture very well. Imagine the little bowl of frijoles de la olla that you get as a side at some TexMex places. Though our baked beans do not remotely resemble those frijoles in taste, the final texture is fairly similar. The beans hold their shape, but the liquid ingredients create a kind of mix between a sauce and a glaze, and somehow hold the beans in a kind of suspended animation of glory.

Nancy’s Crockpot Baked Beans:

1 can baked beans (all cans between 14-16oz).

1 can lima beans

1 can butter beans

1 can kidney beans, rinsed

½ lb. bacon, cut up and fried

1 large onion, sautéed in bacon grease

1 c ketchup

1½ – 2 c brown sugar

2 tsp vinegar

Drain and rinse lima, butter, and kidney beans only (baked bean liquid is necessary for the sauce). Mix all ingredients together. Either cook in a slow cooker for about 6 hours (add a ladle of water if they seem dry), or bake in the oven in a 2 qt casserole at 350o for 1 hour.

I’ve thought about ways you might amend this recipe to be vegetarian, and I think it just wouldn’t be as good. The bacon adds necessary elements of flavor. The sauce becomes quite sweet from the ketchup and brown sugar, and though bacon can also be somewhat sweet, the meaty flavor does contribute something to the finished product, cutting through the starchy beans and the syrupy sauce. Maybe it’s a smokiness that the beans can’t quite develop sans pork product. In any case, the closest I’ve come so far to developing a theoretical veggie version is maybe experimenting with flavored vinegars, rather than the standard white.

In any case, the final result according to the recipe is a bubbling mass of sweet, protein-packed goodness. It’s like edible magma that warms you up from inside. In a way, the flavor reminds me a little bit of that sweet red bean paste that sometimes comes in steamed buns. I served this with sautéed cabbage and peppercorn crusted pork loin. Drool.

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One thought on “Summer comfort food

  1. Pingback: Snowmageddon « "blackberry-eating in late September"

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