Remember that ham bone you tossed in the freezer because you just couldn’t let it go to waste? And the bargain-priced ham hocks you picked up the market?
Think of it: all that hammy goodness, just waiting for something to happen.
Here it is: pork and beans. Beans are inexpensive, low maintenance, high protein and they get along with just about everything. Especially ham.
You can do this recipe in the oven, on a stove top, or a slow cooker (but it will be a little more soupy). You can put it together the night before and let the cook while you watch Jeopardy -- or toss it into a slow cooker before you go to work. Or let it simmer on the stove all afternoon. It takes a while to cook, but it doesn’t require your attention.
Not a needy dish.
You may take pains to dice the vegetables by hand, which gives the dish a nice, rustic look - but you can also let your Cuisinart chew it into a small chop. The red bell pepper adds extra sweetness, and the potatoes are in there to stick to your ribs. The maple-balsamic vinegar (available from Amphora Nueva, 2928 Domingo, in Berkeley, or online at amphora nueva.com) is optional, but it really brings the dish together.
This recipe is not as sweet as store-bought pork and beans, so if your in-house tasters have those expectations, you may increase the sugar to ¼ cup.
SUPER HAMMY PORK AND BEANS
serves eight, maybe more
- 2 cups dried white beans, soaked overnight (about a pound)
- 1 meaty ham bone, or two smoked ham hocks
- 2-tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1-cup diced celery
- 1-cup diced carrots
- 1-cup diced onion.
- 1-cup diced red bell pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4-tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar (or up to 4 tablespoons if you like sweeter dish)
- thyme (6 sprigs fresh, or ¾ teaspoon dry)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-tablespoon maple balsamic vinegar
- 8 ounces marble-sized (1-inch diameter) potatoes, whole, scrubbed
- Soak the beans overnight.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the cooking pot, then add the chopped onion, garlic, celery, carrot and red bell pepper to the hot oil and cook until the onion is translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the drained beans, bay leaf and thyme, and add the ham bone (or hocks).
- Add water just to cover, bring to a boil, and boil vigorously for 5 minutes.
- Lower the heat to a brisk simmer and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
- Mix the tomatoes (pureed, if you like) with the brown sugar and tomato paste, and stir into the beans and ham. Tuck in the potatoes. Add enough water to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring to a boil, cover, and...
- OVEN: …place in a 300° oven. Bake for 2-3 hours.
- STOVE TOP (only if you have a burner with very low simmer function): …reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook, covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- SLOW COOKER: …complete the recipe through step 4, and then add the beans, vegetables, ham and water to a heated slow cooker and cook on “HIGH” for one hour. Then, stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar mixture, and tuck in the potatoes. Cook on “LOW” for 3-4 hours.
7. Taste for salt -- you may not need any; both ham and smoked hocks are pretty salty – and stir in the maple balsamic vinegar.