Bourbon Bacon Baked Beans
Bourbon, bacon, beans (with a little coffee and pineapple); how can you go wrong? You can’t. Especially when the recipe was developed by Michael Mina for Esquire magazine’s “Recipes for Men” series. After experiencing the indulgent bliss of Michael Mina’s lobster pot pie over Christmas I knew that this would be the perfect over-the-top pairing for our Apple Bourbon Smoked Pork Chops.
A one-pot recipe simple enough for men who rarely venture beyond the grill to prepare with confidence, these beans slowly simmer into a winning combination of flavors and textures. It is a venture best left for the weekend as the beans need to soak overnight and then require 4-6 hours of unattended cooking time, but the results are guaranteed to please a hungry holiday crowd. Tiny bits of bacon and pineapple punctuate the round smoothness of navy beans while notes of coffee and bourbon spike the sauce with an addictive earthy sweetness. If you are one to murmur sighs of pleasure while eating an excellent bowl of baked beans, consider yourself warned, you may want to eat a bowl of these alone!
Happy 4th of July! (And a brief public service announcement)
When I was in high school our family and friends would gather together on the biggest lawn available for a huge 4th of July potluck. Once darkness descended, bellies full, we would sit on the grass while the guys shot off countless large and small fireworks well into the night. The fireworks were shot towards the beach from a long cement driveway. One year, a large twisting firework fell over just as it ignited. Instead of shooting vertically into the air the firework zoomed horizontally into the crowd. Just missing the face of my younger brother, it hit me in a blaze of light, glancing off my left shoulder and then slowly fizzling out in the grass. Shocked, I looked down at smoke coming from my shirt. Thankfully the West Coast is still quite cold on the 4th of July, and I was wearing a thick hooded sweatshirt layered over a t-shirt. The firework burned a coaster-sized hole through my sweatshirt, melted the t-shirt underneath, and singed the hood as it skipped off into the lawn. Amazingly my skin and face were unharmed. From that day on I keep a very healthy distance from fireworks and hope that this year you will do the same!
Bourbon Bacon Baked Beans (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Michael Mina for Esquire
Note: Next time I would reduce the brown sugar to 1/2 cup as the beans were on the sweet side for my tastes. However I think most people would be very happy with the full amount of sweetness.
16 oz. dry navy beans
3 cups water
1/2 lb. bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup strong coffee
1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped to a pulp
1 cup brown sugar
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Pinch chile flakes
Place the beans in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Soak the beans overnight. In the morning pour off the water and rinse the beans under cold running water.
Place a large soup pot (8 quarts) over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until the bacon starts to brown. Next add the onions, and saute until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the tomato paste, stirring for one minute. Then add the beans and all remaining ingredients (except the salt, which will prevent the beans from softening if added too early). Reduce the heat to low, and cook the beans for 4-6 hours, or until the beans are soft. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, add a little water. Once the beans are soft, season to taste with salt. (The beans will taste dull unless you add enough salt, so do not be shy with the salt.) Cook the beans for another hour, adding water if necessary to maintain the desired consistency. If the beans are too wet at the end of the hour, raise the heat to medium, and simmer the beans until they reach your desired thickness. Taste the beans again and adjust the salt as needed. Serve warm.