One of the first things I learned to cook was “Beanies and Weanies,” a delightful (if, to my adult sensibilities, somewhat revolting) combination of hot dogs and canned pork and beans. I got fancy with it and added brown sugar, mustard, sometimes minced garlic, freshly ground pepper. I probably experimented with dried thyme, which for a while I added to everything (it’s really good in scrambled eggs). Also, once I became an expert in this dish, my specialty, I insisted on baking in the oven rather than cooking on the stove top. The baked version resulted in a thicker, slightly carmelized sauce that even my 9-year-old self recognized as being far superior to the glorpy goo that came off the stove.
Now, all these years later, I cannot even imagine eating canned pork and beans. And, while I appreciate hot dogs, I’m not sure I could actually eat one. Yet the combination, pork and beans, is a classic pairing.
Here’s the part where I’m supposed to start writing about the grown-up pork and bean pairing that I came up with last night, when I made dinner for a couple of friends. I had pork, from the pig I helped to butcher last weekend. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/02/24/inspiration-and-bacon-from-the-underground-food-collective/) And, while I’ve been making steady progress, I still have a whole lotta heirloom beans waiting to be transformed into something wonderful. But one of the people who came over for dinner last night, someone I love and respect as much as I love and respect anyone, simply abhors beans. All beans. It’s the texture, he says, the gritty beaniness of the beans that he cannot abide.
So. What was I to do with this problem? Surely I could find a way to make him like beans. Because they’re delicious. Especially with pork, which this friend loves. Another friend posted this recipe on my Facebook wall. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/dining/beans-and-red-wine-party-hearty.html?_r=0) Inspired, I came up with a menu that surely even a bean hater would eat with gusto:
Pork rib roast
White beans braised in red wine
Slow cooked kale with bacon
Pan-fried potato, apple and fennel.
It sounded perfect. But, as the day approached, my conscience spoke louder and louder, reminding me: he does not like beans. I can’t make him like something he doesn’t like. It doesn’t matter what I think. Respect his reality, as it is. Have a dinner party without beans. The blog doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you get to cook for, spend time with, people you love, in your home. That’s what matters. Screw the blog. I would make the menu I came up with without the beans. And it would be great. Because I’ve grown, I’ve evolved. Yes.
Except no. It doesn’t matter how many hours I spend on the mat, practicing yoga, or generally trying to become a better person. I remain hopelessly human. My ego was so sure that I could change his mind, make him like beans. Plus I had Vallarta beans in the freezer. I would serve the Vallarta bean puree that I made a few weeks ago with short ribs. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/02/13/vallarta-bean-puree-with-short-ribs-and-bitter-greens/) I knew it was delicious. When I proposed the plan, trying to sell the beans by name-dropping Thomas Keller, of French Laundry, he agreed to try a bite. But I also agreed to make polenta. To be safe. Compromise is beautiful.
In the end, I didn’t change anyone’s mind. The puree was still gritty, said the bean hater. I don’t get that still, but honestly, the Vallarta beans weren’t a perfect match for the pork. I should have made the white beans. For me and my other friend. But everything else was terrific. And it was super fun. So much so that I completely neglected to take photos. Sorry! Oh well. Here are the recipes. Note that the potatoes in the hash recipe are pre-baked, so you’ll need to think ahead.
4-rib pork roast
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1. The day before you’re planning to serve, wash and dry the roast. Slice between each rib, stopping about 1″ before the bone. Rub all over with salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 365. Remove the roast from the refrigerator, tie with kitchen string, and let it sit out for about an hour. Place on a roasting rack in a pan. Toss the vegetables on the bottom of the pan and add the water. Roast until the internal temperature comes up to 130, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Carve the meat off the bone and serve, either plated, as pork chops, or on a platter, with the bones, family style.
Chop the potatoes into 1/2 or 3/4″ chunks. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes in a single layer. Salt liberally, 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the apples into 3/4″ chunks. Turn the potatoes and add the apples and fennel. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the potatoes are crispy and the apples are browning but not soft. (This photo is from last weekend, when I made this for the first time.)
Slow cooked kale with bacon
2 bunches of Lacinato (dinosaur) kale, leaves stripped from the stems
1 Vidalia or other sweet onion
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 c. diced bacon
Add the bacon to a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, and cook on medium-low until the fat renders and the bacon starts to crisp. (NOTE: I used the bacon I cured at home, which I foolishly finished in the slow cooker. While it sort’ve worked, the end result isn’t really bacon, as the fat rendered away. So I had to add olive oil. But it tastes delicious.) Add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion turns translucent. Add the kale, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and add 1/2 cup of water or, if you happen to have some, white wine. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced. Serve. Eat. Enjoy.