Secrets and victories: Tangy Barbecue Baked Beans

I think I’ve done it. I’ve figured out the purpose of pomegranate molasses, at least within the context of my life. It’s amazing, and so simple. It’s a secret weapon, the kicker in–

Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us begin the story properly.

Barbecue baked beans

Once upon a summer, you may recall that I had the good fortune to spend a sunny saturday in Central Park with a small phalanx of fellow food bloggers. You may also recall that our spread was, unsurprisingly, entirely awesome. Of particular note (to me, anyway) was a tray of baked beans–piquant, tangy, smoky, baked beans. Beans that have haunted me ever since, because the man responsible would rather not divulge his secret recipe! Which, you know. I understand. But it has not stopped me from trying to crack the code myself!

And so, I researched, I tested, I poked and prodded and finally –FINALLY–came up with a recipe that is, if not the twin to the mysterious beans of the potluck, a reasonable substitute (not facsimile, but substitute). Tangy! Smoky! Sweet! It’s like barbecue in a bowl! And the secret ingredient?

Yes! Pomegranate molasses! I will not shy away from admitting that this discovery caused me to do a little dance of joy around my tiny little kitchen.

Eventually, however, the thrill of cracking the flavor code wore off, and I realized I had a few technical issues to iron out before I could really start celebrating–specifically, the fact that my beans refused to cook. Granted, I started with dried beans, and didn’t soak them overnight (yes, I know), but it was a challenge transforming them from tiny starch bombs into the velvety deliciousness I knew they could be. Seriously, despite using a “shortcut” from America’s Test Kitchen, I ended up cooking those little buggers for something crazy, like 8 hours (caveat: this was at 250 degrees, so it’s not like I was searing them into another dimension. But STILL). Though it made the house smell amazing, I know it is not ideal for most people with real lives–and without slow-cookers. As a result, despite my victory I have accepted that I still have a few more steps to make before I can declare these beans perfection (though I’m sufficiently excited that I’ll share the recipe, anyway. I just can’t wait).

So, having now told you my secret, I’m going to ask you for yours: how do you deal with dried beans, so that they actually, eventually, cook? Let’s pool our resources to make these the best baked beans in the known universe. Who’s with me?

Tangy Barbecue Baked Beans

Roughly 1lb dried beans (I used a mix of cannellini and black), picked over and SOAKED OVERNIGHT.
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 slices thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1c strong-brewed coffee
1c water
1/2c ketchup
2 tsp prepared mustard (I used dijon)
1/2c brown sugar
1 tsp molasses
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4c cider vinegar
1 tsp mild chili powder (I like Ancho)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander

  1. Preheat your oven to 250. In a large saucepan, cook your soaked beans at a medium simmer until they are soft and velvety, but not falling apart. If you can figure out how long this is, please let me know.
  2. In a large, heavy dutch oven, saute the bacon over medium heat until it starts to brown, about 3-4 minutes
  3. Add the onions, cooking until they’re slightly transclucent
  4. Add the garlic. Saute for two more minutes
  5. Then, add everything else except the beans. Mix well, and let it hang out at a simmer for a few minutes.
  6. Add the beans. Cover the pot, turn the heat to high and simmer for 5-10 minutes
  7. Keeping the cover on, move the pot to the oven and cook until the beans are velvety (it SHOULD be about 4 hours; in my case it was about 400 years. Again, if you figure out how to remedy this, let me know). Add more water if it gets dry.
  8. Remove the cover for ten minutes or so at the end–enough to make the sauce thicken just slightly.
  9. Don’t bother serving it with anything else. it’s a meal unto itself.
In baked, barbecue, beans

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