Cook the Book: Boston 'Baked' Beans

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

My consumption of baked beans is usually limited to barbecue joints but I was dying to see how dried beans would fare in the pressure cooker. This recipe for Boston "Baked" Beans from Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass seemed like the perfect way to test the pressure cooker's dried beans chops.

Unless you are opening a can and reheating it, stove top baked beans are a serious time commitment. Overnight soaking, boiling the beans, and then simmering them for hours with molasses and various other sweet and savory components seems like a whole lot of work for something that is usually accompanies hot dogs.

I happened to have all of the ingredients for this dish conveniently sitting in my pantry and the active cooking time for this recipe clocks in at just under half an hour. Baked beans at home? Under normal circumstances, probably not, but in this case, yes please. The beans are pressure cooked for 15 minutes to soften them and then the rest of the ingredients are sautéed together and added to the drained beans. Then the pressure is brought back up for another 10 minutes.

When I unlocked the pressure cooker to check on my beans I found that they weren't quite finished—they were a little crunchy to the bite. Sass addresses this in recipe and says the beans can be simmered on the stove top until the beans reach your desired doneness.

I decided to add a little last minute molasses and a smoked ham hock to beef up the flavor a bit during the final simmering, and the beans turned out pretty damn good. The cloves and cinnamon really packed an aromatic punch, and the texture was thick and rich. Another win for the pressure cooker for making baked beans that don't come from a can or a styrofoam container.

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As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Cooking Under Pressure to give away this week.

Cook the Book: Boston 'Baked' Beans

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About This Recipe

Yield:6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) water
  • 2 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4 whole cloves
  • One 3-inch stick cinnamon, broken in two
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Procedures

  1. 1

    Place the beans, bay leaves, water, and 1 tablespoon oil in the cooker. Lock the lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the pressure by placing the cooker under cold running water. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Return the beans and 2 cups of liquid to the cooker. Discard any remaining liquid or reserve it for making your next soup.

  2. 2

    Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions begin to brown around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the molasses, mustard, tomato paste, cloves, and cinnamon. Pour the mixture on top of the beans. Do not stir.

  3. 3

    Lock the lid in place and over high heat return to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape. If the beans are not tender, replace (but do not lock) the lid and simmer until done.

  4. 4

    Before serving, remove the cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. The mixture will thicken on standing, but if you wish to thicken it immediately, purée some of the beans and stir the puree back in. Stir in the vinegar and salt.

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