If you had asked me a year ago I would have told you that I wasn't a huge fan of red meat.
If you had asked me a year ago I would have looked you dead in the eye and said, "I don't eat meat in the form of a tube."
If you had asked me a year ago I would have stared you down and declared, "I hate pig meat."
One year later and I'm hosting wild game dinners, writing recipes featuring chorizo sausage and making my own cured pork.
Obviously a few things have changed.
Here's one more thing I've completely reversed my opinion on - baked beans.
My father often makes baked beans and until recently I would not even sample them. Then one day they started to look very appealing...and taste even better.
So last night I decided to try making them for myself. One thing I wasn't a fan of in my dad's recipe is the salt pork. I don't like the texture of the pork as I'm eating a mouthful of the beans.
Since I happen to be in possession of a fairly large quantity of very fatty cured pork, I thought I'd give my guanciale a shot instead.
It occurred to me that the sweet and salty, aromatic and spicy, melt in your mouth creaminess of the guanciale would really lend itself to the sweet, tart, earthiness of baked beans. Given that I was left with barely enough beans to snap a photo this morning, I'd say my hunch was correct.
The guanciale was distinct from the beans but with every mouthful it melted in my mouth and spread it's creamy porkiness throughout the beans. All of the subtle flavours of the cure on the meat also really came through in the dish and added to the overall flavour.
SeaBass has been after me for some time to make him cornbread and baked beans seemed the perfect reason to do it, so I whipped up a batch flavoured with jalapeno and cheddar to sop up the sauce of the beans. The jalapeno lent a very mild spice to cornbread and accented the mild chili spice of the guanciale. The cheddar added a nice creaminess to the cornbread.
Which is the more reasonable question
A) How did I go 30 years thinking baked beans were disgusting?
B) What the hell has been going on with my appetite since turning 30?
2 cups navy beans
1/2 lb. guanicale (or bacon, salt pork or combo)
1 onion diced
6 tbsp. molasses
4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dr mustard
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. worcestire sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Soak 2 cups navy beans in water overnight.
Drain and rinse.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place beans in lidded casserole dish.
If using guanciale or bacon give it a quick sear on skin and flesh side in small saute pan.
Remove pork from pan reserving rendered fat.
Add diced onion to saute pan and saute for a couple of minutes.
Chop guanciale, bacon, salt pork into small dice.
Sprinkle sauteed onion and pork over beans.
*Mix remaining ingredients together to form sauce.
Pour sauce over top of beans.
Add enough boiling water to completely cover beans and sauce.
Place dish in oven and cook for 3-4 hours.
Be sure to check on the beans often (every 20 minutes to 1/2 hour.) As the level of liquid decreases add more water or more sauce (see note below) to your liking.
*I started the cooking process with 1/2 the amount of sauce and added the rest near the end of the cooking time in order to create a very strong flavour.
Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornbread
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup jalapeno finely diced (depending on how much heat you want)
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese (or blend of other cheeses)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
6 tbsp. melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together dry ingredients.
Stir in jalapenos and cheese.
In a separate bowl whisk together wet ingredients (buttermilk, eggs, butter.)
Stir dry ingredients in to wet just until well moistened (don't overwork the batter.)
Pour batter into greased, heavy 9" baking dish (preferably cast iron or glass - the heavier the dish the better.)
Bake for 30-35 minutes (until golden brown on top.)