I have eaten more than my fair share of grilled sausage and baked beans over the years. Growing up, sausage and baked beans was one of our go-to meals when time was tight or Mom/Dad didn't feel like putting much effort into making dinner. In those days, all it involved was heating a can of baked beans on the stove and quickly frying up a few links of kielbasa. Easy peasy.
I kind of forget about "beans n sausage" (as we called it) these days, because my tastes have changed and most varieties of canned baked beans make me queasy, with all their sugar/corn syrup and frightening ingredients. Also, the kielbasa from the supermarket is filled with preservatives and, oh my God, salt galore.
But still, last week I found myself with a nostalgic craving for the stuff. I picked up some jalapeno-pork sausage at Central Market and, of course, had to have my beans on the side. The sausage, I was happy to see, is all natural -- which is my way of saying that every ingredient on the label is something recognizable. Pork. Jalapeno. Salt. Sugar. Garlic. Spices. That's it -- no nitrites or nitrates. (Obvs I am one of those people who stops her cart in the middle of the aisle to scrutinize every ingredient on the label.)
The beans were a little trickier, so I picked up a couple of cans of plain pinto beans to jazz up. Today I found this NY Times article by Melissa Clark and was so pleased with the results. You simply add a few cans of plain boiled beans, in their liquid, to a saucepan. Then you combine ketchup, molasses, dry mustard, Tabasco sauce, and vinegar in a bowl, stir, and add to the beans. This simmers for 30-40 minutes, while the sauce thickens and the beans soak up some of the flavor. The end result is tangy, a little sweet, a little spicy, and just as satisfying as the beans of my youth. The beans still have some sugary ingredients (ketchup is obviously quite sweet, and hello molasses) but you can control the sugar content yourself, which I appreciate.
And about the sausage: super delicious. The skin gets crispy and burnished (the snap of the skin as you bite into grilled sausage is so great, isn't it?), while the inside is juicy and spicy. We also grilled asparagus --my favorite way to cook asparagus these days-- and had a cucumber salad on the side. A pretty perfect, low key summer lunch.
P.S. The regional baseball tournament has been
such a nail biter! Rice v. Kansas State tonight was an amazingly fun
game to watch but was a heartbreaker in the end. We gave up 3 runs in
the top of the 9th innning, giving Kansas State a big lead with 7-3. In
the bottom of the 9th, we scored 3 runs to make it 7-6 and had 2 men
left on base -- only to strike out. Argh.
Melissa Clark's Fake Baked Beans
This recipe calls for bacon, which I omitted due to lack of bacon. I am sure that bacon would add a delicious smokiness here, though.
2 cans of beans (I used pinto, but navy would be great here)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 slices thick cut bacon (optional in my opinion)
Chopped red onion, for garnish
1. Add canned beans, with their cooking liquid, to a saucepan and turn heat to medium low.
2. In a small bowl, combine ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, dry mustard powder, Tabasco, and black pepper. Stir and add to beans.
3. If using bacon, add one slice of uncooked bacon to the beans and fry the remaining bacon slices in a separate skillet.
4. Bring the beans to a simmer. Turn heat to low and let simmer 30-45 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove bacon slice, if using, and add salt to taste.
5. Transfer beans to heated serving dish and top with fried bacon slices, if desired, and chopped red onion.