Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick Ham and Beans Inspired by Fannie Farmer

I've had a facsimile edition of Fannie Merritt Farmer's Boston Cooking School book for many years. It's pages are yellow and brittle not much fun to page through anymore in it's awful condition. So I was very happy to find that makes it available online!

In her recipe for Boston Baked Beans, she says, "The fine reputation which Boston Baked Beans have gained has been attributed to the earthen bean-pot with small top and bulging sides in which they are supposed to be cooked. Equally good beans have often been eaten where a five-pound lard pail was substituted for the broken bean pot." [emphasis mine]

Well, if that isn't an invitation to flexible cooking, I don't know one! So, last night, a can of navy beans and some ham turned into a quick and delicious one-pot meal.

Ingredients for two servings:
  • 1 can of beans — I used navy beans but you could use another kind
  • 6-8 ounces of ham — I used leftover picnic ham AKA smoked Boston butt AKA shoulder ham
  • Several stalks of celery — enough that this will be your prime vegetable for the meal
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2+ tablespoons mustard
  • 2+ tablespoons ketchup
  • 2+ tablespoons molasses
  • 2+ tablespoons broth or water
  1. Cube the ham
  2. Coarsely slice the celery and onion
  3. Drain the beans
  4. Put the ham, celery, onion and beans in a covered oven-proof casserole
  5. Mix the mustard, ketchup, molasses and broth (or water) as a dressing
  6. Pour the dress on the other ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly.
  7. Bake, covered, at 350°F approximately 1 hour or until the flavors have melded and the vegetables are soft.
With such a simple recipe, you can adjust the ratio of ingredients to suite your taste. Want some bite? Add a little horseradish, use a hot mustard or add a little hot sauce. Like it sweet? Increase the molasses. Last night, I "leaned heavy" on the mustard using AJ's Walla Walla Sweet Onion Mustard with Smokey Bacon that I got in our most recent order from the Mustard Museum.

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Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.