Good gracious, almighty. I'll get to them in a minute. But these beans!!! First things first, though.
Hi, howdy, hey there, friends! It's been a little while since I posted something new -- cough two months cough -- but I promise this was worth the wait. I want to thank you for your words of understanding and encouragement. I've never once viewed blogging as "work" and never want to get to that point. I cook, photograph, and write because I truly enjoy it. The past two months were so filled with good stuff (running, baking orders, travel, etc.) that I didn't have time for it all and knew something had to give. Realizing that my blogging hobby could take an unwanted turn into "obligation" territory, I gave myself a little vacation.
All of that being said, I really, really missed you/this! I have multiple lists around my office, apartment, and various purses with new ideas to make and share. In other words, I hope you've worked up an appetite :)
I fell in love with these bodacious beans at a picnic over Memorial Day weekend. We were at my best friend's in-laws' house for their annual party. Despite the plethora of dips and pre-meal snacks adorning every flat surface in sight, I abstained and focused my energy on catching up with some of my favorite people. This wasn't my first rodeo -- I knew of the glorious buffet that awaited hungry revelers and wanted to make the most of it.
However, what I didn't know was that I'd discover my new favorite summertime side dish, thanks to one of my best friend's mother-in-law's best friends... follow that? They were even college roommates just like us!
I first met Sally (hi!) when Matt and I joined our current group of Pitt football season ticket holders. Her fun-loving attitude and bubbly spirit are totally infectious, so we hit it off right away. We even discovered that we share the same high school alma mater -- what a small world! Over the past three years, we've gotten to know Sally and her husband, who are an absolute blast to hang out with in sun, rain, or snow at all hours of the day and/or night.
Sally has one long-standing recipe that's become a requested staple at our tailgates: her Jell-O shots. They are, how do I say this, extra delicious and extra potent :) A "P-I-T-T" cheer isn't complete without them. But, as I learned over Memorial Day weekend, Sally is even more famous for another recipe in her repertoire: her out-of-this-world baked beans.
I can only imagine what drew me to the beans, which were nestled among platters of hot dogs, pulled pork, fresh fruit, cheesy potatoes (hoping to get that recipe soon!), and some of the most gorgeous and creative salads I've ever seen. Divine intervention or dumb luck, thanks to you, my taste buds have experienced nirvana.
Baked beans loaded with seasoned ground beef, sweet onions, rich molasses, and a virtual bushel of crispy smoky bacon. Flavor for miles, y'all.
I want to face plant into these beans and never resurface.
I want to live and die in these baked beans.
I want to shout from the mountaintops and proclaim the goodness of these beans.
But I don't want to share them. Not even a little. Sorry not sorry.
As Matt and I stood over the pan, first tasting for seasonings, then simply
So, please do yourself and those for whom you cook a favor and make these beans today... and next week... and every week thereafter until the end of time. And, be sure to raise a glass to Sally and thank her for these baked beans that are a tradition among her loved ones and sure to become one with yours, too!
Four years ago: Avocado, corn, tomato, mozzarella & zucchini summer salad
Sally's Ultimate Baked Beans
-makes 10-12 servings, as a side dish, or 8-10 as an entree
A few notes: The beans will absorb much of the moisture in this dish, especially as they cool and are stored overnight. Add a tablespoon of water at a time as needed to loosen up beans to desired consistency. Finally, if you like a little bit of heat with your sweet, try adding dash of cayenne pepper at the end of cooking.
1 pound lean ground beef (I used a 93/7 mix)
12 ounces (3/4 pound) bacon
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato paste
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon unsulphured molasses OR 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 (16-ounce) cans baked beans
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash chili powder
In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown beef, breaking up as it cooks. Remove pan from heat, drain and discard excess fat from cooked beef, and set pan with beef aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat, arrange half of bacon slices. Cook until beginning to turn golden brown on first side, flip and cook according on other side. Using tongs, remove cooked bacon to paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool. Repeat with remaining slices until all bacon is cooked. Drain excess bacon fat from pan, reserving 2-3 Tablespoons in pan. Once bacon is cooled, crumble or chop into roughly 1/2-inch pieces.
Return saute pan to heat and add onions, stirring occasionally and cooking until tender and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add cooked beef and bacon. Add tomato paste, ketchup, molasses, and 1/4 cup water and stir until combined. Fold in baked beans and cook until warm. Add black pepper and chili powder, stir, and remove from heat. Serve warm and enjoy!
Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days. In fact, I think they taste even better the next day! Reheat, covered, in microwave. Sally's suggestion: try serving in a hot dog bun or roll as a sandwich.