Have you ever tasted something so delicious that you remember the exact spot, time and day where you ate it? These baked beans stand out in my memory from a day of running around and boogie boarding at the beach here in Northern California with friends, kids, dogs, and a jumble of food, pot-luck style arrayed on a picnic blanket. They were the most tasty, warm pot of smokey, tomatoey, slightly spicy baked beans I had ever had and they immediately became one of the staples that I make on a regular basis, adapted from a recipe from Rancho Llano Seco.
For a quick meal, heat a corn tortilla, dollop on a big spoonful of these beans, then top it off with a fried egg over-easy. My kids could eat this every day for breakfast. These beans make for a tasty and nutritious dip next to bowls of tortilla chips and guacamole. I also like to combine them with shredded roast chicken and cut corn to be rolled into corn tortillas, topped with a quick homemade enchilada sauce and cheese, and baked into bubbling deliciousness. Mmmmmmmm.
To make the cooking process quick and easy, I’ve got two tricks up my sleeve:
- I soak the beans overnight. Place your dried beans in a large pot and cover them with 4” of water. They will absorb most of this water, allowing them to cook quickly the next day.
- I cook my beans in a Wonderbag, which is a non-electric slow cooking device that continues the cooking process using only heat retention (and is a economic game changer for the 3 billion people in the world who cook over open fires). Rather than simmering the beans for an hour or two on the stove top, I simply bring them to a boil, simmer them for 10 minutes, place the lidded pot in the Wonderbag and walk away. They will continue to slow-cook in the Wonderbag for the next few hours, saving up to 80% of the energy required to cook these beans. I often do this in the morning, then in the late-afternoon, I pull together the tomato sauce, combine them, and voila! The most delicious baked beans you have ever tasted AND they’re cooked in an eco-friendly way!
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 1-2 hours
Adapted from Llano Seco, Santa Maria-Style Pinquinto Beans
- 1 lb. navy, black, cranberry, piquinto or flageolet beans
- ½ lb. bacon, chopped into small pieces
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups tomato purée
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 jalapenos, seeds removed, sliced fine
- 1 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 tbsp dijon or stone-ground mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- Rinse beans, and place in a 6-qt. Pot. Cover with 4” of water and let sit overnight. Alternately, bring beans to a boil, remove them from the heat, cover and let sit for one hour.
- Drain beans and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil.
- For Wonderbag cooking, simmer for 10 minutes and place lidded pot into Wonderbag. Let sit for for 1-2 hours and up to 6 hours.
- To cook without a Wonderbag, simply simmer the beans for 60 minutes or up until the beans are tender.
- Meanwhile, in a medium pot, cook bacon until crisp then transfer to a paper towel to drain. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of fat.
- Add onions and cook, stirring until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
- Add tomato puree, tomato paste, jalapenos, brown sugar, mustard and salt, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Drain beans, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Add tomato sauce to beans and stir. Add reserved cooking liquid until you reach a good consistency.
- Bring to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes. Place inside Wonderbag until you are ready to serve.