Baked Beans

A "Viewer Request" today: baked beans. This recipe doesn't even call for pork&beans! Good baked beans are a great addition to a grilled dinner or your traditional backyard hamburger bash. I also love them as a lunch side dish, but this recipe is even hearty enough to stand as a main dish along with some brown rice and a salad.

Baked Beans

1/2 pound bacon
1 large onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed garlic (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
3 cans pinto beans (see note)
1 tsp liquid smoke (see note)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 can tomato sauce OR crushed tomatoes
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP hot sauce (optional)

1) Cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and cook in a large sautee pan until crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel, leaving the grease in the pan.
2) Meanwhile, peel and julienne (slice very thin) the onion.
3) Over LOW heat, add the onion, salt, and pepper to the bacon grease pan and cook for about 20 minutes. Cover while cooking. Stir occasionally. Yes, it sounds like a long time--you're caramelizing the onions. They shouldn't hiss too loudly, and they should slowly turn golden brown and very soft.
4) Add the paprika and the garlic. Cook for about 1 more minute.
5) Drain and rinse the beans. Add to the onions and add all remaining ingredients, including the crispy bacon bits (or you can save that and top it at the end for a big finale).
6) Heat beans to a boil and let simmer for about 20 minutes. OR you can transfer to a baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. OR you can transfer to a crock-pot and let simmer for about 1-2 hours, just until hot through and flavors are really melded beautifully.

Note 1: This recipe calls for 3 cans (regular size, at-the-grocery-store-type cans) of pinto beans. If you were starting with dry beans, it would be about 2 cups, soaked overnight in lots and lots of water, and then cooked thoroughly in boiling UNsalted water (about 2-5 hours). I love to cook dry beans in my crock-pot for about 6-8 hours on low (overnight is good too). I do a great big pot full and then you can freeze them as well. If you want, you can use other types of beans as well. I just recently made this recipe with 1 can of pinto beans, 1 can of great northern beans, and 1 can of black beans. The different colors were lots of fun.

Note 2 (ingredient of the day!): Liquid smoke. They make it by putting a little condenser and drip pan over giant hickory smoker. So quite literally, it is Liquid Smoke. You can purchase it on the condiments aisle in your grocery store, right by the other barbeque sauces and ketchup and hot sauce and whatnot. I love having it in my house. It is fairly cheap and you use only a little bit at a time. It is delicious, though! It's like instant barbeque. I make my own BBQ sauces with it (not all of them quite as complex as the aforelinked), put it in my marinades, add a few drops to chili, and then watch my family drool. While the bacon in this recipe and the smoked paprika add a nice smokey accent, it's really the liquid smoke that sets it apart. I highly recommend adding this delectable little treat to your spice cabinet today!

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