Wednesday, May 13, 2009

pork & beans: fast, cheap and good

There is a construction business axiom: you can have it cheap and fast but not good, good and cheap but not fast, or fast and good but not cheap. Fortunately, food isn't like the building industry. So here, on request, is my recipe for pork and beans. It's inexact. (All my recipes are inexact.)

You'll need:

  • 6 slices of bacon (without nitrates, nitrates, or phosphates--Applegate farms is fab)
  • a chunk of pork loin or a couple of chops (what Kelley and I do is buy a pork loin when it's on sale, chop it into chunks to freeze and use a bit at a time--I've never weighed what I use but for this recipe I'd guess, oh, 12 ounces maybe)
  • 2 cans white beans
  • 2 red peppers
  • 10 big white mushrooms
  • 1 box/can tomatoes (I like Pomi tomatoes in the box: no added salt or water or sugar or ascorbic--or any other--acid, and no nasty seeds to get stuck in your teeth; also they just taste better)
  • a one- or two-count pour (glup, or glup glup) of olive oil
  • a dutch oven or other stovetop or oven pot with a good heavy lid

Pour the olive oil in the pot--just enough to make sure the bacon doesn't stick when you start it frying. Heat the pot while you cut the bacon slices into quarters. Set the bacon frying (medium heat).

While the bacon fries, cut up the pork. Big chunks are best. Drop the pork in with the bacon. While it's browning, chop the pepper (big chunks) and the mushrooms (ditto). Open the beans.

When the pork is browned on both (if you're using chops) or all (if you're using a pork loin) sides, add the vegetables and the beans--don't bother draining the beans, just pour the whole lot in. Don't pour off the fat in the pot, either--that's what makes everything so damn tasty. Stir. Add half the tomatoes. Stir again. Turn up the heat, stirring occasionally.

At this point you'll have to ponder the liquid mix--is there enough? If not, add more tomatoes and/or a little water. Stir until it bubbles. Lower heat, put on the lid, simmer, stirring occasionally.

It doesn't take long to be cooked enough to be safe to eat, but if you simmer for an hour or so, all the flavours come together. You don't want to cook it too long, though, or the peppers turn to sludge and their skins roll off and into red needles. (This is why you cut the veggies into really big chunks, so they maintain their integrity while the meat cooks and the juice turns to deliciousness.)

Serves...well, I don't know. Depends how much you eat. Six people? Something like that. We always have leftovers for lunch the next day, and often for a second dinner, too.

I serve with brown rice and either steamed broccoli or sauteed courgettes (zucchini). A good appetiser is salad, a good dessert is berries and ice cream. (If it's not berry season, heat frozen berries in a pan and pour over vanilla ice cream--trust me, it's delicious.)

This is a very forgiving recipe--which is a polite way to say it's difficult to fuck up, so don't fret about the details. Have fun.

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