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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Who needs Baked Beans when you can have Grilled Beans!!

Baked beans have been a standard staple in terms of a side dish for BBQ seemingly forever. But why settle for baked beans? The grill is already up and running, why not use it to take baked beans to the next level. Why not impart some of that amazing smoky flavor that we so desire permeating the meat into the beans? There are a million ways to do grilled beans. This is just one of them. This is the simplest side dish. The prep time was all of 10 minutes and made a great side dish for a group of 20.

Let's start off with the ingredients. Here we have three large cans of Bush's Original Baked Beans. You can use anything here. There will be so many more flavors added that I don't bother buying something other than the original as the added flavors will overpower any specialized beans. Along with the beans there is garlic, olive oil, brown sugar, maple bacon and apple pie stuffing. That's right. Apple pie stuffing. Bear with me:

If I'm doing these for say 4 or 6 I would pick a pot with a metal handle and do all the prep in the pot and transfer it straight to the grill. But with 20 people coming over I needed something bigger to go on the grill. What I did in this pot on the stove was transferred to a double stack of a good size disposable tin tray. First things first. Throw in a little olive oil and garlic into a pot and get that garlic sweating over medium heat:

Add about a half cup of brown sugar and more olive oil as the sugar just soaked it up:

While the garlic is sauteing, as well as the sugar, chop up the apple pie stuffing into smaller chunks.

Then add the chunks to the pot to cook them down a bit:

While this is simmering I dumped the contents of the cans of beans into the disposable trays. I doubled them up to give the beans more support. After the garlic, brown sugar, apple concoction had simmered for a few minutes, I dumped them into the pan with the beans along with a healthy dose of fresh cracked black pepper and mixed it all through:

At this point I pulled out a few slices of maple bacon and sliced into one inch squares. You won't need the whole pound. This is a healthy version of the other things I normally prepare with bacon!!

I placed the bacon squares along the top of the beans but left a little space between each one so they wouldn't insulate each other and thus cook more quickly:

Depending on how much time you have you can place these directly over the heat or off to the side to slow cook. When I do ribs for say 6 hours I put them off to the side for 5 hours or so. We didn't have that kind of time so 2.5 hours on direct heat will have to do. Here are the beans next to the ribs with the Bologna Chub in the background:

Here are the beans simmering on the grill about 90 minutes later. The bacon is cooking nicely and the whole dish could be eaten at this point. But the longer they stay on the more flavors infuse into the beans:

And here are the beans ready to serve. The reason I don't use whole strips of bacon is because when they are ready to serve I just stir the bacon into the beans.

Now I will admit that I had never tried the apple pie stuffing in beans before. Normally I make this recipe exactly the same but without the stuffing. Sometimes I mince up some sweet onion, but this is usually my recipe. I had seen the apple pie stuffing on a couple of sites and decided to try it.

After the food was served and everyone was well on in tearing into their respective plates I asked the crowd for feedback. After a bit of goading I finally got a little more than, "everything is great." I had to assure them that they would not insult their hosts by giving constructive feedback. I was worried that it would be too sweet but I didn't get much of that. Even had a suggestion to add molasses next time. A couple people felt that it needed more salt. I figured the salt in the bacon would have taken care of that but maybe I need to add a pinch of salt next time. A couple people thought they were a bit thin. With a shorter cooking time the beans did not cook down as much as my usual beans do. I could've poured off a little of the sauce prior to cooking next time if I don't have as much time like I did here. So plan accordingly on that front.

What I would do differently next time:
  1. Add a little salt. With a pan this big a pinch or two would do the trick
  2. If I only have a couple hours of cooking time I would open the cans halfway with the can opener and pour a little of the sauce off the top using the top of the half opened can as a sieve so I don't lose any beans. If I have more than a couple hours then I skip this step and just let it cook down normally

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