Summer is synonymous with Smoke Outs around The Muddy Kitchen, as most of you already know. We always go simple, if you could call it that: smoked chicken, smoked ribs, smoked duck, smoked lamb, potato salad, baked beans, cole slaw, sun tea, loads of beer, ice cold, fizzy white wine and every neighbor we can gather up.
In our year-long emotional, physical and spiritual preparation for the big Smoke Out, Tommy and I spend many an hour chopping wood (well, he actually does that without an ounce of help from me), studying up and experimenting with cook time, wrap time, rest time and rub. You can easily have cocktails with us around about February and find us still ruminating on the rights and wrongs of our last smoke, and how we might do things better next time. We are at our most self-critical about smoking. Smoking things wrong can seriously stress us out.
I’d truly like to share our recipe for a perfect smoked duck, or ribs that have just the right amount of peppery bark clinging to the moist, pink meat, but I’m afraid it’s not possible. Smoke is the most elusive flavor there is and the most difficult cooking technique to get right enough to write a recipe for it. Sorry.
I can point you in the direction of Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto. Even Aaron Franklin manages to write a two-pound book on his infamous BBQ and only includes about 4 recipes. Getting it right is more like a way of life. Something you ponder even when it’s February.
Instead, I offer this: Life-changing baked beans.
These gloriously fall somewhere between heaven and heaven’s after party. They are so white trash it hurts, but trust me. If you want to be super classy with your version then use artisan-y bacon. It’s good no matter what.
Thank you to The Pioneer Woman, who has no problem listing “Pork N’ Beans” as an actual ingredient. This recipe had me at ‘bacon grease’.
The Best Baked Beans Ever
Serves all your neighbors (if you have up to 18 of them)
8 slices bacon, halved
1 medium onion, chopped up real nice
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped up real nice
3 large cans (28 ounces) Pork N’ Beans (I bought mine at Target)
3/4 cup barbecue sauce (make your own or cheap & cheerful)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tsps dry mustard
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Fry bacon in a big pan — I use my biggest cast iron skillet — until it’s partially cooked and releases about 1/4 cup of it’s bacon grease. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Add onions and peppers to the grease in the pan and sauté until tender. Add the beans back into the mixture and cook a bit. Pour the whole mixture into a greased 13-by 9-inch (or similar size) ovenproof pan.
3. Top with the pieces of bacon and bake until beans are beginning to brown on top and the ‘juice’ takes on a molasses-like thickness. About 2 hours.