January requires comfort food

Entertaining

Baked bean dish is fast, delicious and consoling

Entertaining

January 12, 2003|By Betty Rosbottom | By Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

By the time mid-January rolls around, everyone I know is feeling a bit blue. I call it the post-holiday- doldrums syndrome. Houses look bare with all the Christmas decorations put away, the weather is cold, the days often gray and, worst of all, bills have started to arrive. My remedy for this seasonal condition is to sit down, plan a menu of my favorite comfort foods and invite a few friends for a meal. Such get- togethers warm souls and lift spirits.

For this January, I've decided on a barbecued meat loaf (made with a homemade barbecue sauce) and baked beans. And, of course, there will be mounds of creamy mashed potatoes and coleslaw. A dessert of chocolate chip cookies served with scoops of purchased coffee ice cream should make everyone feel mellow by the end of the evening.

Of all these favorites, I am most excited about the baked beans, for which I have a delicious and easy new recipe. My longtime culinary assistant, Ohioan Emily Bell, helped create the dish, which she calls "quick as a wink" baked beans. The "quick" refers to the speedy assembly of four different canned beans that have been rinsed and drained, then embellished in a matter of minutes with some robust ingredients. Stewed tomatoes, molasses, mustard, brown sugar and sauteed onions and bacon are the extras. After a little more than an hour in the oven, these beans will rival even the best "from-scratch" ones, which take far more time to prepare and many more hours to cook.

The beans could easily be paired with other comfort foods. Try them with roasted or barbecued chicken, with oven-baked ribs or with pan-grilled sausages or hot dogs. I feel certain that they will satisfy your palate and restore feelings of well-being.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.

A Mixed Bag of Beans

Makes 8 servings

one 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans

one 15.5-ounce can navy beans

one 15.5-ounce can baby butter beans

one 15.5-ounce can pinto beans

two 14.5-ounce cans stewed tomatoes

1/3 cup molasses, preferably unsulfured (see Note)

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard (not Dijon)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

5 thick slices bacon (about 5 ounces)

1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

Arrange oven rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour all the beans into large colander and rinse under cold running water, then drain well. Place in large mixing bowl. Drain tomatoes in same colander, place in food processor and lightly pulse just to chop tomatoes coarsely. Add to bowl of beans along with molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Cut 3 of the bacon slices crosswise into 1 1/2 -inch pieces and saute in medium skillet over medium heat until browned. Drain on paper towels. In same pan, saute onion in bacon drippings until softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Remove onion from pan and add along with cooked bacon to beans and stir to mix.

Pour beans into shallow 2-quart baking dish and spread evenly. Cut remaining 2 bacon slices into 1 1/2 -inch pieces and scatter on top of beans.

Bake uncovered 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until bacon on top is crisp and browned. Serve hot.

Note: Unsulfured molasses has a cleaner, lighter taste than molasses made with sulfur.

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