Monday, May 26, 2008

Unbaked Beans

It's the end of a three-day weekend, when Americans have laid wreaths, vegged out by lakes and lawns, and finally, finally worn white again -- but I worked all day today and I worked all day Saturday and I didn't even notice what I put on either day. Don't cry for me, though. I spent a lovely Sunday blowin' around Soho and the Lower East Side, capped off with a nighttime walk across the Brooklyn Bridge lit with undulating colored lights in honor of its 125th birthday, a view so magical that it reduced me to childlike skipping, wonder, and glee.

And sure, the weather was postcard-perfect while I was chained to my laptop, but really, it's not so bad: while I worked today, I did a little cooking in honor of the holiday. Leaving aside a World War retrospective, what's more Memorial Day than a big pot of baked beans? We didn't have the barbecued meat to go with it but we did have something even better: my roommate Andrea just came back from a weekend at the Cape (you know, the Cod one) lugging a bag of live mussels. She prepared them to her mother's recipe, with white wine, butter, celery, carrots, and herbs, and you know we mopped the fragrant broth up with buckets of toasted bread.

The baked beans recipe I was working with -- published in 1963 in John Gould's Monstrous Depravity -- called for night-long soaking and day-long baking. Not wanting to turn on my oven for so long on such a warm day (and not having planned ahead for dried beans), I grabbed 4 cans of black-eyed peas and cooked them in the Crock-Pot.

Gould recommends a number of what are now considered heritage beans: yellow eyes, Jacob's Cattle, Soldier (or Johnson), as well as the common kidney bean. I found none of them except the latter, so decided to go with black-eyed peas because they, not surprisingly, resemble yellow eyes, and because they're lucky, and despite what I've said before, I feel like I could use some good fortune right now.

Mussels and baked beans: an odd combination, perhaps, but both honor New England (Gould was from Rockland, Maine), so why not? I more or less followed his recipe, though I upped the fresh ginger -- and if I were doing it again, I think I'd add even more. But then, I'm a known ginger lover.

May you enjoy them all summer long ... but not with white pants.

Slow-Cooker "Baked" Black-Eyed Peas

2-3 slices thick-cut bacon
1/2 cup white onion, diced
4 (15 & 1/2 ounce) cans of black-eyed peas
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

Fry the bacon slices to just-crisp in a skillet over medium-low heat. Remove bacon and allow to cool slightly. Add onion and saute in bacon fat for 5 minutes. Slice the bacon into thin strips.
Empty the canned peas, including liquid, into the bowl of a slow-cooker. Add bacon, onion, bacon fat, and all other ingredients. Cover but leave a crack for steam to escape. Cook on medium for 5-6 hours, until liquid is reduced to a thick gravy.


neoinileias said...

you have nice blog...

Dave, 'LunaPierCook' said...

I absolutely love homemade beans like this! My uncle Al makes the best baked beans on the planet, and my sister's lentil soup is to die for. However ... ummm ... er ... ahem ... afterwards, no one can stand to be withing breathing distance of me for a week ...

Jenn said...

hi nora!

it's jenn from the tea party.

your blog is cute :)

let's make thomas jefferson ice cream in july!

it was fun to meet you hope you're doing well.

Nora Leah Sherman said...

Thank you Neoileias and my dear Dave and Jenn!

Neoileias - your blog is so lovely, made me want to escape to the Mediterranean!

Dave - ha! Point taken. Oh, beans, why do they taste so good and then do such harm?

Jenn - YES! Let's definitely make ice cream. I will be in touch.