If you know anything about my early days in NYC, you know that I lived off of canned baked beans simmered with cut up hot-dogs and topped with a handful of crushed pretzels. Fast-forward to my adult life, and I figured it was time to make my favorite food from scratch.
These beans have a much more savory flavor profile than the stuff you pour out of a can, molasses is the true star of this much-loved American classic. Bacon on top was a no brainer, the fat slowly bastes the beans as they undergo their second cooking (in the oven), keeping them tender long after they've left the stew pot.
Make a batch for Memorial Day! These are great cookout beans, trust me, everyone will ask you for the recipe.
1 pound Dried Navy Beans
1 Red Onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
2 Fresh Bay Leaves
1 Yellow Onion, diced
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 cup Tomato Puree
½ cup Molasses
⅓ cup Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Brown Mustard
2 cups bean cooking liquid, reserved
Black Pepper and Salt to taste
6-8 slices Uncooked Bacon
In a medium bowl, cover beans with cold water by several inches and stir in 1 tablespoon (15g) salt. Let beans soak at least 12 hours and up to 1 day. Drain and rinse.
Combine beans with red onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaf in a large pot and cover with water by several inches. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, topping up with water as necessary, until beans are fully tender, 45-65 minutes. Using tongs, discard bay leaves.
Drain beans and reserve cooking liquid, you will have about 2 cups of cooking liquid.
Saute chopped yellow onion in bacon fat until tender. Add chili powder and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add tomato paste, cook for 2-3 minutes, until dark.
Add tomato puree, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, and pepper. Cook until bubbling.
Stir beans into onion mixture. Add reserved bean cooking liquid ¼ cup at a time until the beans are saucy, but not soupy. You will likely need only 1 cup of the liquid to achieve this.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour coated beans into 9x13 baking dish, and top with bacon slices.
Bake at 325˚ for 2-3 hours, until crusty on top and bacon has rendered. If beans look like they’re drying out before the bacon is done, add more reserved bean cooking liquid and gently stir to combine, leaving bacon untouched on top.