Deluxe Baked Beans with a Crumb Top
Photo: Jennifer May
A memorable (and economical) dish to make for a crowd, this recipe is easily doubled.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 12-ounce slab salt pork or slab bacon
  • 3 cups diced Vidalia onions (from 1 1/2 large onions)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, low-sodium store-bought or homemade
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary, or 2 tsp. dried
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme, or 2 tsp. dried
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 one-pound smoked turkey leg
  • 3 links (12 ounces) smoked pork sausage
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs

Directions


Put the beans in a medium bowl and sift them through your fingers, discarding any rocks if you find them. Cover the beans generously with cold water and leave to hydrate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Drain the beans, put them into a deep pot and cover generously with water. Season with salt, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour or until the beans are tender but not mushy. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking water.

Cut the salt pork into 2-inch cubes. Heat a deep, wide-bottomed ovenproof pot over medium heat, and when it's hot, add the salt pork. Cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a bowl, and then add the onions to the fat in the pot. Season with 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions turn very soft and light brown, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300°. Pour the canned tomatoes into a bowl and crush them with your fingers.

Add the molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, paprika and cayenne to the pot and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they've reduced and begun to fall apart, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper and the drained beans. Pour in enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid to bring the liquid in the pot level with the beans and stir to combine. Nestle the turkey leg and salt pork cubes into the beans.

Partially cover the pot (or cover it with a parchment-paper lid, see below), transfer it to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Add the sausages and bake for 1 more hour. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a medium bowl. Add the bread crumbs and a pinch each of salt and pepper and toss to combine. Remove the lid from the beans, remove the bay leaves and sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top. Bake, uncovered, until the bread crumbs turn brown and crisp, about 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving straight from the pot.

How to Make a Paper Lid, and Why

Topping my baked dishes with a parchment-paper lid (or cartouche) is one of the few tics that I took away from the professional kitchen. (An addiction to super-clingy professional plastic wrap is another.) Here's why: A paper lid allows for about 20 percent evaporation (which concentrates the sauce, a good thing) yet it keeps the food beneath it moist. A tight-fitting cover doesn't allow any evaporation at all and an uncovered surface gets dry pretty quickly.

These disposable lids, which look like paper manhole covers, really protect roasts and braises. Here's how to make one: Fold a square of cooking parchment into quarters and then begin folding to the point, as if you were making a paper airplane. Point the tip into the very center of the dish, find where the edge of the pot hits the paper, and cut there. Snip off the very tip of the paper triangle to make a small center hole, and then unfold the paper. Press the lid gently right onto the surface of the sauce. The parchment may darken in the heat of the oven, but it will still work fine and won't catch fire—just don't turn on a broiler above it.

From The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes (Clarkson Potter) by Amy Thielen.

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