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Mike's Recipe, January 2013
Pork and Beans

Another Christmas past and another set of new cookbooks received. We each got each other a new book this year! Heather picked out Michael Symon's Carnivore for me. Subtitled 120 recipes for meat lovers, the book includes a ton of great insights into cooking meat. It's divided into sections based on the type of animal: beef, pork, lamb & goat, poultry, game, and a bonus section for sides. I can't wait to really dig into the book and start learning about how to properly cook all of these unique meats. A lot of the recipes will require a trip to a butcher that goes beyond what's available in a grocery store, but there are still several options that use cuts you can get almost anywhere.

Our gluten free January was also a limiting factor in my recipe selection for the month but I ended up deciding on his Pork & Beans recipe. It sounded like a relatively straightforward one pot wonder that I could pull off and all I had to do was leave out the bread crumb topping to make it gluten free. It also involved a ton of bacon, sausage, and a ham hock. Pork heaven!

It was a bit of a slap in the face when the recipe suggested using homemade bacon, homemade sausage, homemade smoked ham hock, and homemade broth! Recipes for each of those are included in the book. Maybe I'll try it someday, but as it was, this recipe took me three days! It was fun though. I used two additional days because the beans involved were dried navy beans.

I had never used dried beans before. On the first evening, I simply put the beans in a bowl, filled with water to cover, and refrigerated overnight. It only took me about five minutes. On the second day, I actually cooked the beans. This was simple as well but they needed to be on the stove for an hour. About 5 minutes into the cooking, I took Heather's suggestion and switched from our big sauce pan to our huge pasta pot for fear that the starches would cause it to boil over. This was an important change because even with our big pasta pot we came close to a mess at one point. After they were cooked I drained them and put them back in the fridge for the next day.

While I had hoped this would be a simple one pot wonder, one quirk in the recipe kind of threw me for a loop. On two occasions I was tasked with removing everything from the pot after it was cooked only to add it back again later. I diligently followed the instructions but using such a deep pot made it feel like I was playing one of those arcade crane games with scrumptious bacon bits as the prize.

The first thing I had to cook and remove was the bacon. I rough chopped an entire package and threw it in the bottom of the pot to cook. Getting it all to brown and finish cooking took considerably longer than the instructions indicated which is probably a sign that I didn't quite use the proper pot. No worries though. I was actually extremely happy with how the bacon came out.

With the bacon done, everything else was set to be cooked up in the bacon fat left behind. To make things a little healthier, I used one of Heather's tricks, dropping a paper towel in the pan to soak up at least a bit of that fat. Trust me, there was still plenty left to cook the onions, carrots, and garlic, remove them, and then cook the sausage.

With everything cooked through once, everything went back in the pot (along with the ham hock, stock, and herbs) and the pot went in the oven for an hour. Heather threw some brown rice on at this point too. It was a good suggestion as we were using this meal as our main course. Pouring it over rice made it fit that role a bit better.

When it came out, it had the consistency of a stew and smelled amazing. I could not wait to dig in. Michael Symon points out in the recipe description that this is a more savory version of the often overly sweet dish, making it more suitable for a wintertime main course and I couldn't agree more. It was super satisfying on a snowy, below-freezing evening. The recipe made enough for a small army so we were able to reheat it the next day and have some more. It thickened up even more which I think made it even better. I can't wait to try this recipe again, maybe next time slow cooking it all day in a crock pot.

You just read one of Upstate Crumbs' monthly New Recipe posts. Every month, Mike and Heather will each make a post about a new recipe. For Mike, it will usually be an adventure in trying to learn to cook. For Heather, she'll pick something that is outside of her comfort zone in some way.
By Mike on January 21, 2013 at 6:51pm EST Topic(s): recipes new recipes home cooking books gluten free michael symon pork beans

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