Yesterday was Easter, which makes me want to cook springtime, picnic-y foods and serve them to everyone I know. So I did. We had an Easter party at our house and invited some friends over to share in the celebration. I’ve tried making baked beans the past few years with less than fully satisfying results, but this year, I finally got it right. There was deep satisfaction around the table and this recipe was labeled a “keeper.” I was able to make it using 100% local ingredients, which is always something that makes us extra happy because that means we can make them again and again without having to ask for or order hard-to-find ingredients.
1 pound of white beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained (I actually used black eyed peas with great results.)
1- 1 1/2 strips la rou (腊肉), the smoked meat that almost looks like a really thick strip of bacon, available in local Chinese markets, sliced thin*
2 cups diced onions
1 Tablespoon minced or grated garlic
6 cups chicken or ham stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup + 3 Tablespoons brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar.)
1 cup ketchup
3 Tablespoons mustard
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional but recommended)
salt and pepper to taste
Directions and Notes:
1. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, cook the sliced meat over medium-high heat until the meat is crispy and some of the fat has melted off, about 5-7 minutes. It should smell a lot like bacon.
2. Add the diced onions and cook a few more minutes until the onions are softened, stirring frequently.
3. Add the garlic and the beans. Cook one minute.
4. Add the stock and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil.
5. After the mixture has boiled, reduce the heat and simmer the bean mixture for about 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. Stir about every 15 minutes as it cooks.
6. After the beans are tender, add the brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, and liquid smoke. Stir to combine and cook another 25-30 minutes or until the flavors are melded and the sauce is thickened.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
*Most of the time the vendors at the market are willing to slice the la rou (腊肉) for you, which is really handy, because it can be somewhat tough to cut yourself.
Recipe adapted from: Foodnetwork.com