I like to stretch celebrations out as far as possible. Birthday? you ask; Birthweek!! I reply! Got a new job? Let’s celebrate until you feel assimilated into it! One, maybe 6 months, yeah? Your dog learned to sit? That warrants, what eight, yes eight nights at least of revelry and debauchery. Why not!?
Life is just to trying not to celebrate the small stuff—and to make those celebrations last for a week at the least. That’s why Jim and I started celebrating our two-year anniversary on the Ides of March (though it’s really the 11th or 13th or something—I’ve revised our history because I have a semi-creepy obsession with Julius Caesar) and we’ll continue celebrating until March 30th—all the way through our VACATION! Yippee!
We’re going to the Outerbanks, NC, where we rented a little one-room cabana along the beach. It may not be warm enough to swim, but it’ll be perfect for fixin’ a fire in the sand and cuddling with my boyfriend and my dog, who lucky for him, gets to join us. And yes, that is a buffalo hanging in the frame alongside our bookcase. Like, what, you don’t have a framed picture of a buffalo?
I’ll leave the rest of my talking about vacation for when I get back—with lots of pictures and stories I hope! Now, I think, we should talk about our 1st night of our 2 week anniversary dinner: Maple-and-Sage Rubbed Pork Tenderloin and Real Maple Baked Beans!
First, the pork. Here is my shameless plug: Urban Accents Vermont Grill Maple-and-Sage DryGlaze. When I say shameless, I mean it, because when a very cool guy named David asked me if I would try out some of the Urban Accents products and then blog about it—under no circumstances needing to say anything complimentary, I was ready to be disappointed. See, I make all my own rubs and I have always felt like that was the only way to go in order to get the best. I was ready to dislike the stuff—dryglaze I thought, ohh, ohh, look at me, I rub on dry and then I get all glllaaazzzyyy in the oven, ohh, ohh. Bull, I thought. And then we cooked it. And it did go on dry and then get all glazy in the oven. And it was delicious. It was better than any of the other homemade rubs I’ve tried on this very same cut of farm-raised-heirloom-pork-by-Cherry-Grove-Farms. And, what I felt was the best part, it was so easy, on a night when I prepared the rest of the dinner hours ago, on a night that’s better spent cuddling in your two-year-old relationship than futzing with some dead pig in the kitchen. So, no, there’s no shame in telling you all to go buy some Urban Accents stuff online (or in Whole Foods, where I found, and bought, some more spice blends–the garam masala is great and I have a recipe with it in store for you!)
And now, since this post is getting a wee-bit too long, let’s move right on to the beans. The real beans.
I hardly ever—actually never before I made this recipe—cook with dried beans. Call it laziness, but I think canned beans taste just fine. Usually, canned beans are perfect for those weeknight dinners, where I haven’t planned anything in advance and at 7 at night I’m scrambling through my pantry looking for dinner. They epitomize handy, quick, and substantial to me. Those are not, however, the right words for your anniversary night (well, maybe substantial, but whatever, you get my point) so I turned to my
trusty idolized friend, Ina.
I saw Ina’s maple baked beans on a Barefoot Contessa episode called “Dinner Date” a while back, making a mental note to try them one day. It was one of those mental notes that hide inside the dieing brain cells that have had too much caffeine, or booze, or internets—lost until one day, right before your anniversary, your mom brings up baked beans on the telephone and you realize that’s the perfect thing to make! I love regular ol’ maple baked beans but, being a celebration and all, I wanted our anniversary beans to have a little pizazz. Ina’s recipe, with the addition of ginger and Chinese chili paste, was the ticket. The end product was perfect—sweet, a little spicy, full-bodily mapled, and of course, bacony (did I say I was leaning towards vegetarianism? Who? Me?).
Using dried beans allows for you to cook them for 6 to 8 hours, resulting in intact, not-too-mushy beans that have incorporated all the flavors in the pot. It’s the perfect party dish, even if you have a party of two, since you make the whole thing in the early afternoon, and simply take the pot out of the oven at dinner. Sitting here drinking my coffee and having a serious case of packing-procrastination, I wish I still had leftovers!
Talk to you all when we get back. Happy 1st Day of Spring!
Maple Baked Beans
adapted from Barefoot Contessa
1 pound dry red kidney beans
2 quarts water
1 large yellow onion, cut in eighths
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
3/4 cup grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Chinese chili paste
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
7 ounces thick-cut smoked bacon, cubed
Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. Drain and rinse the beans and then drain again. (Or, quick-soak beans by placing in a pot with 2 quarts water to cover. Bring pot to a boil and boil for a minute or two. Remove pot from heat and let sit for an hour. Drain, rinse, and drain beans again. Proceed with recipe.)
Place the beans in large pot with 2 quarts water, the onion, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 50 minutes, or until tender. A good test is to scoop up several beans in a spoon and blow on them: if the skin starts to peel off, they’re done. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, chili paste, ginger,mustard, salt, and 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid, still reserving the remaining liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 6 minutes.
Transfer the beans to a medium Dutch oven or a bean pot. Push half the bacon into the beans and place the rest on the top. Pour the maple syrup sauce over the beans. Place the lid on top and bake for 6 to 8 hours. Check occasionally; if the beans are too dry, add 1/2 cup more of the cooking liquid. If you like, you can remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to thicken the sauce. Discard the bay leaf. Serve hot.