We went to Santa Maria the other day. It's nice to be able to go to the coast, even when it's not hot. There's something about that great, big, huge ocean that soothes the soul. While we were there, I had to get some poquito beans. Now that we don't live up north next to Anna and Ed, I have no way of getting them except by mail order, which I'm not going to do. It's not that much of an emergency. Anna and Ed used to be our reliable suppliers, and we miss those two dearly.
Being the cheapskate that I am, I have to wait until there's a reason to make the journey and get some poquito beans where we're already going. So when we made plans to go to the area where they grow the beans, and where they got their fame as a side dish to the well-known Santa-Maria-style barbecue, I thought, "Well, let's get some beans while we're there!"
We drove around and then had a nice hike to the beach. On the way back, it was time to hunt up a grocery store that sold the beans. I felt that a local store would be more likely to have them than a big chain store. The first place we went to was the local Spencer's. I went directly to the dried bean section and was immediately disappointed. I'm not accepting this, I said, so found a clerk and asked, "Where are your poquito beans?" Sure enough, they did have them. They were just in the produce section and in bulk. I bought three pounds, and now I'm going to make baked beans.
Poquito beans are so nice because they don't turn to mush. They hold their shape. Below is my personalized recipe. My husband likes canned Campbell's baked beans, so I try to make them taste like that.
• 1 lb. dried poquito beans
• 1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, chopped
• 1/2 large onion, chopped
• 1/4 cup tomato paste or 1/2 cup tomato sauce
• 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
• 1/4 cup molasses
• 1 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 teaspoon salt
• Optional: reserved soaking water with chicken bouillon
1. Cover your beans with cold water and soak them overnight.
2. When you're ready to start, preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
3. Put a 3-quart or larger, oven-safe pot over medium heat. (I use an enamel-coated iron pot like a Creuset. Mine is a Creuset knock-off that I found at a garage sale. It's a Martha Stewart brand, and it works fine and is a cute red. To make it work in the oven, I removed the original plastic knob and put on a metal knob. I used a drawer pull from the hardware store and fastened it with a locking nut.) A small, iron, Dutch oven would work, too.
4. Add the chopped, uncooked bacon and onion. Cook about 10 minutes, until the onions are nice and soft.
5. Now stir in the tomato, brown sugar, and molasses. Here's a hint: If you coat your measuring cup lightly with oil, the molasses will pour out cleanly, without sticking.
6. Drain the beans and save the liquid. We'll use that in a minute. Now, add the beans to the pot. Then add enough of the saved liquid to cover the beans. I add a teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon chicken bouillon to the liquid for added flavor. Vegetable bouillon would be great, too, and would make it vegan or vegetarian.
7. Increase the heat to high and allow the beans to boil. Now add the mustard, black pepper, and salt. Stir and cover the pot with a lid. Place the whole shebang in the oven and bake until the beans are soft. Check them after an hour passes to see how they're doing, and then on an hourly basis until they are the texture you like. I like them on the crunchy side, but you may like them softer.
This is going to be our dinner tonight with good sourdough bread and a glass of beer. Simple, nourishing, homemade food.