When our friends Cynthia and Robert asked if we could come to dinner, Suzen automatically said yes. And I was so happy.
Robert is gentleman, with a talent for sangria. Cynthia is an exceptional party cook. Everything, and I mean everything, at her meals is wonderful. This Saturday there were spiced cashews on the first table. And dessert featured her chocolate pecan pie — she’s an Oklahoma woman — and a fresh mango trifle. I, uh, was planning on getting a third dip of that delightful trifle, but I noticed Suzen noticing me. And saying it was “fruit” was only going to draw hell. Besides I’d already had dessert with the main meal.
While everything Cynthia serves seems perfect, these baked beans were astonishing. They “dominated” the plate. There were ribs and chicken and slaw, but Lord there were these beans. All the table conversations shifted from golf, politics and Arizona real estate to these beans.
In a phrase, these are the best beans I have ever had. They are sweet, intense, with a balanced flavor. There’s just the right amount of each ingredient. It clearly represents lots of tries and a passion for bean perfection.
Here is the recipe from Cynthia. And to give full credit, the recipe is credited to Paula Deen from the Food Network.
food network. There are tradeoffs in life. Flavor versus healthiness is one of them.
On this night, I voted for flavor.
Cynthia used very thick strips of high quality bacon, and not super lean. The bacon fat was certainly a contributor to the overall flavor. Look for “up-scale” cans of pork and beans, a “good” mustard and other quality ingredients. It’ll pay off.
[Oh, I am going to get that mango trifle recipe!]
Best Baked Beans Period
Yield: 6 servings
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 16-ounce cans pork and beans
- 3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ pound bacon strips, cut into ½-inch pieces
In a Dutch oven, mix the onion, pork and beans, mustard, maple syrup, light brown sugar, ketchup and lemon juice. Top with the bacon pieces. Bake, covered, for 45-60 minutes.
In the picture above, the Dutch oven was replaced by a glass baking dish. And, “topping” with bacon can be an art form. You can give the dish a apple-pie-style basket weave. In that case, bring the beans to the table for all to see.
Sources: Paula Deen
By now, this year’s batch of maple syrup has arrived at the farmers markets. Fresh, new and with the same questions of vintage and terroir that accompany the arrival of any wine. What hath a warm winter wrought?
And what to do with that syrup? A frosting, of course. Here is one from a woman famed for her sweet tooth, Clementine Paddleford whose classic How America Eats has been lovely edited by Kelly Alexander into a new edition The Great American Cookbook. Kelly, with a superb forward by Molly O’Neill, describes why this book is so important and should be readily at hand on your bookshelf.
Clem, as she was known, was the food editor for the then greatest New York City newspaper, The New York Herald Tribune. From 1936 until 1966, she traveled and she wrote. She drove 800,000 miles and she flew her own Piper Cub to wonderfully un-urban locales, like lumberjack camps in Washington State.
Clem’s mission was to capture the food of the nation in that period. She had a readership of 12 million people per week, when this country had only 140 million residents. She wrote of the regional specialties before our influx of Latin and Asian immigrants. She wrote of food before Julia or Marcella. She wrote about a different America at a different time.
The Great American Cookbook has 500 recipes. Some are classics, some are hysterically outdated. Some sound like a dish you would only serve to your most hated relative. But they are here in this book, and they are authentic as hell.
So, from time to time, this blog will pay tribute to Clem by working our way through The Great American Cookbook, working our way mostly from East to West but with occasional side trips. We won’t post every single recipe and we’ll avoid those ones that you could use for justified vengeance on that relative. But, like this Vermont Maple Frosting, we will post the recipes that are obviously wonderful.
In an age when a recipe can run for 3 or 4 pages, Clem’s recipes are often as short as this one. Often simple and impeccably authentic, these are gems for you. Perhaps a bit dusty. Perhaps unfamiliar. But gems still and ones you deserve to try.
Truthfully, Suzen and I have not made this frosting yet. It’s on my schedule to do in a week. And, I have to say that beating just one egg white makes me think this is a real Depression era recipe when each egg had deep value for many families. With a modern mixer, even a hand held one, doing one egg white is much harder than two. So, I’ll tell you now that I plan on a little experiment. Two egg whites. Fresh from chickens down the hill.
I don’t think Clem would mind. In fact, she’d be the first to put her finger in the bowl and say, “Ah.”
Vermont Maple Frosting
Yield: 2 cups, enough for one 9”x13” cake or the tops and sides of two 8” or 9” rounds
- 1 ¾ cups maple syrup
- 1 large egg white, stiffly beaten
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
In a 1-quart saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Gradually pour the hot syrup over the beaten egg white, beating constantly until the frosting forms soft peaks. Gently fold in the walnuts. The frosting may be stored in an airtight container or heavy duty-freezer bag in the refrigerator for a month.
Source: The Great American Cookbook by Clementine Paddleford