After the crazy, rainy run of last weekend, Mr. Menace and I decided that Sunday would be a good day to hunker down and cook slow, heavy meals. After all, Spring is on its way and soon these treats will be pushed aside in favor of lighter fare – salads and grilled meats and raw, green things. So, each of us took on a cooking project that day – Mr. Menace wanted to make his patented and as-yet-untried-by-me chowder, while I’d decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to try to make baked beans from scratch.
We started with the chowder, which was originally intended to be clam. Alas, we did not have the condensed clam juice that is Mr. Menace’s signature addition to the dish, so I suggested that he make corn chowder instead. Since we didn’t have whole milk, either, rather than skim alone he decided to make the base with light cream. We fried up some bacon and sauteed the onions in a bit of the fat, then put that in a pot with the cream, corn, some tiny potatoes and a generous amount of butter. The final product wasn’t quite what Mr. Menace had in mind – he’d initially imagined a more spartan dish in the style of his late grandfather – but was instead the most buttery, decadent corn soup you can imagine.
A bit too rich to eat more than a cupful at a time, but lovely on such a blustery day!
In the meantime, I took the rest of the bacon to create the base for my beans. I was eager to try this making them from scratch because I’ve always been a little dissatisfied with the kind from a can. Per usual I turned to Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything for guidance. His recipe is extremely simple – just the beans, some sort of salty meat, molasses, and mustard. The real challenge with this recipe isn’t the amount of effort, which is minimal, but the colossal amount of time spent in getting the beans to the right consistency. Slow food indeed! However, it was perfectly acceptable on such a raw day to essentially use the oven to heat the house, and many hours later, I’m happy to report that I had a product that smelled wonderfully of molasses and at least looked how I thought baked beans should look:
In the tasting of them, the beans were good, but not spectacular. I think in future batches I will add a bit more molasses and perhaps some caramelized onions. Still, it was a fine start, and a wonderful way to spend a dreary Sunday!