Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cor Tuum Enim Bono

*credit for the following bean recipe goes to The Pioneer Woman.

About a week ago, I looked in my freezer and saw a large pork tenderloin that desperately needed to be cooked. So the other day I thawed it out and thought, What the hell, and decided to brine the pork.

Brining is a cooking technique similar to marinating, where you soak your meat (or vegetables) for a long period of time in a salt solution. The solution seeps into the meat, locking in fluids, which makes the meat extra tender when eating. A good brine can make a pork chop fall right off the bone.

Brining also flavors the meat. For my brine, I mixed 1-ish cup each of salt and brown sugar in 2 cups of boiling water. After the granules are dissolved into the water, I removed the brine from the heat and mixed in about 1/3 cup of peppercorns and 1/3 cup of an Italian seasoning blend. I didn't have any bay leaves or else I would've tossed a few in as well.
Then I stirred in 4-ish more cups of cold water. You want the brine to cool off so when you soak the meat the liquid doesn't start cooking it.  Find a large, preferably air-tight container (or freezer bag) and soak the meat in the liquid for a long time. I soaked the tenderloin for around 12 hours. (*note to self, try brining a turkey with this mixture for Thanksgiving)

Then I made a dry-rub of brown sugar, paprika, and pepper to put on the meat when it was done. I woulda added mustard (the spice, not the condiment) but I didn't have any on hand.

Anyway, as it got closer towards removing the pork from the brine, I decided the best side dish to go with pork would be beans. Duh. But I didn't want to buy cans of baked beans from the store, since all manner of weird ingredients (mostly corn derivations) are contained therein. So I did a little research and made baked beans from scratch.

Take a pack of thick-cut bacon and cook it in a large skillet (or pot) just long enough to start rendering the fat. Don't overcook the bacon. Pull it from the skillet after the fat starts liquifying.
Why the bacon is cooking dice some onion (amount will vary depending on how much you want to make, I diced half an onion for two cans of beans) and a bell pepper (I used half of that as well).

Once the bacon has been pulled from the skillet (let them drain on some paper towels), throw in the diced onion and bell pepper and let it cook in all that bacon grease. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing right about now. Now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

After the onion starts to soften and clarify, thrown in your beans. I used a can of organic black beans and a can of pinto beans. Then add brown sugar (1/3 cup), barbecue sauce (I found a nonfat organic sauce at Trader Joes that is delicious, use about 1/2 cup for two cans), Dijon mustard (A heaping tablespoon), and a bit of apple-cider vinegar (around 2 teaspoons).

Stir everything together until it starts simmering. Remove from heat and pour into a baking dish (greased, if you like). Take the strips of bacon and place them on top of the beans.
Cook in the oven uncovered for around 2 hours. The sauce will thicken and the beans will soften and the bacon will blacken.

The timing is tricky, because you want your pork to be about 145 degrees in the center, if you want to try to time when to start baking the meat. Or you can pull the beans and cover them (a casserole dish works perfectly for this) and cook the meat at 350 degrees for about a half hour.

Once the pork is done, serve and enjoy the hell out of it. I know I did.
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