Friday, July 3, 2020

Instant Pot Barbecue "Baked" Beans

Instant Pot Barbecue Baked Beans

Oh, how I love barbecue. And how I love a smoky, spicy-sweet side of beans to go with it.

Just in time for the 4th of July, here's my new favorite recipe for barbecue "baked" beans--"baked" because they aren't really, since I made them in the Instant Pot.

There are lots of recipes for "barbecue beans" or "baked beans"--not really sure what the difference is I put both in the name of this dish.

I've made this dish twice, and while it was good both times, the adjustments I made for the second time were a definite improvement. I didn't have any molasses on hand the first time, so I used 1/4 cup of maple syrup (the real kind). This worked fine, but I missed that deep sweetness the molasses adds. I also used Stubbs's Sweet Honey & Spice flavor barbecue sauce the first time, which I didn't like nearly as much as the Stubb's Hickory Bourbon I used for the second batch (for the record, my favorite variety of Stubb's barbecue sauce is Sweet Heat--so amazing).

In looking at ingredient lists of other recipes to develop this dish, the one I leaned on the most was "The Best Barbecue Beans Recipe" by Joshua Bousel for Serious Eats. The accompanying photos were exactly what I wanted my beans to look like, and I liked the combination of sweet ingredients (honey, brown sugar and molasses). I made quite a few changes, but it's worth checking out.

That Serious Eats recipe goes the more traditional route of soaking the beans first and baking them in the oven, so expect an overnight soak and about 6-7 hours of cooking time. By comparison, my recipe takes a little over 2 hours--not exactly "instant" but with no soaking or oven time, it's great for whipping up "baked" beans the day before (or even day-of) you want to enjoy them without heating up your kitchen on a hot day or having to remember to soak those beans.

Instant Pot Barbecue "Baked" Beans

Ingredients for cooking the beans:
1 lb. dried pinto beans (may use other similarly sized dried beans), rinsed and examined to remove any small stones
10 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

Ingredients for cooking the dish:
1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide strips
1 1/2 cup diced (about 1 large) yellow or sweet onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cup barbecue sauce (I recommend Stubb's Hickory Bourbon)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. mustard (any will do, I used a grainy Dijon)
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup brown sugar (I used light, but would've used dark if I had it)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Cook the beans:

1. Combine dried beans, water and salt in an Instant Pot. Lock the lid and set to cook under high pressure for 25 minutes. When cooking time is up, allow pressure to release naturally, which takes about 10-12 minutes. Total time for this step is 50-60 minutes.

2. When pressure is fully released, unlock the lid, drain the beans and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Cook the dish:

1. Using the Instant Pot sauté mode, cook the bacon until browned and crisp. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon. Remove excess bacon fat, leaving about 2 tbsp. in the pot (I used a couple paper towels to soak it up).

2. Add the onion and garlic to the pot. Sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the Instant Pot.

3. Into the pot with the cooked vegetables, add the cooked bacon, cooked beans, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, honey, molasses and chicken broth (in other words, all of the remaining ingredients). Stir to combine. Lock the lid and set to cook under high pressure for 15 minutes. When cooking time is up, allow pressure to release naturally, about 10-15 minutes (vent any remaining pressure after 15 minutes). Total time for this step is 40-45 minutes.

4. Unlock the lid and stir the mixture. If a thicker texture is desired, use Sauté mode (normal setting) to evaporate some of the moisture and thicken the beans--about 10 minutes is just right for me. Allow to cool and either eat or transfer to a container with a lid to store in the fridge.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Restaurant: Muchas Gracias (Washington, D.C.)

Muchas Gracias Washington, D.C.

It's been over 3 years since I've posted a story on Cook In / Dine Out. I've been thinking of restarting it--not as frequently as before, but occasionally writing about new recipes, old favorites and of course, restaurants. With COVID-19 having shut all restaurant dining in, it's going to be really more like "Cook In / Dine In" for the time being.

Thankfully, a lot of great restaurants are offering food for pick-up or delivery, a good reason to continue to support your favorite neighborhood spots, as they need that support now more than ever. We have continued to order from our favorite neighborhood places--Buck's Fishing and Camping and Comet Ping Pong--pretty much every weekend. Yes, we miss our wonderful servers, but having one of those amazing wood-grilled burgers or a Stanley pizza is such a comfort. We are glad they are still open for business and hope they stay that way.

Amazingly, the owners behind our two favorite local hangouts have gone and done something that seems absolutely bonkers: they've opened a new restaurant. Yes, there is a new member of the Forest Hills dining family. And it's pretty incredible.

To set the stage, I must remind you that Chris and I love Mexican food. I mean, it's one of the reasons we typically plan a long weekend in Texas each year. While there, we seek out really good Mexican (and barbecue, another favorite) since, unfortunately, really good but inexpensive Mexican isn't as prevalent in D.C. as we'd like, especially in our neck of the woods. Sure, Poca Madre is divine, but that's neither inexpensive nor convenient to where we live.

Chips with guacamole and salsas
Enter Muchas Gracias, a pop-up taqueria that opened in the former Besta Pizza space next door to Buck's. For a minute, it was called Buckaroos, in a nod to its sibling neighbor. But Muchas Gracias is perfectly named, since that's exactly how I feel about having this absolutely incredible tacos+ restaurant in my neighborhood.

The menu is fairly short, and tacos are the star. As I've checked out the site during the last week, the offerings seem to change a little bit (carnitas was not available the night I ordered), but the short list includes favorites like chicken tinga verde--succulent pieces of chicken stewed with vegetables--and skirt steak fajitas, which smartly side-step the typical sautéed onions and peppers to provide only tender morsels of perfectly grilled steak enriched with a side of honey-chipotle butter and complemented with a scattering of fresh cucumbers. Although we haven't tried it yet, roasted mushrooms and chiles sound like a tasty alternative for those wanting a non-meat choice.

Our favorite taco, the best taco we've ever eaten from a D.C. restaurant, is the short rib birria. Wow wow wow is this good eats. Chef Christian Irabién, an Oyamel alum, has crafted something truly special here, braising short ribs and serving them in red mole broth with pickled onion and preserved cherries (which taste so much like Luxardo maraschino cherries that I'm wondering if that's in fact what they are). Every bite is tender and tasty, with enough spice to keep it interesting and just a hint of sweetness from the cherries. I could eat this taco everyday (it could be a problem having this just blocks from home).

Muchas Gracias Family taco night
Family taco night

For dinner, I definitely recommend getting the "family taco night." It comes with your choice of filling, freshly made corn tortillas (a little smaller than usual and smacking of true homemade goodness), chips, salsa verde, salsa chipotle (absolutely incredible), red beans (amazing), garlic rice, and pickles (tasty but careful with those pickled jalapeños--they've got quite the kick). You also get some peanuts and grasshoppers to snack on beforehand and a decadent slice of tres leches cake garnished with whipped cream and strawberries for dessert. The night we got it, they even threw in a kale Caesar salad with Buck's garlicky Caesar dressing and large croutons. Because it's so hard to choose just one filling, I recommend you add at least one or two others. Toss in some extra tortillas and you have lunch or dinner covered for the next day too.

Because I couldn't help myself, I also ordered a side of guacamole and some extra chips (which we enjoyed with mezcal margaritas I made before dinner). The guacamole is exactly as it should be, bursting with fresh avocados and topped with a few toasted pepitas and a sprinkle of queso fresco. And the chips are really good too, crisp with true corn flavor just the way good tortilla chips should be. So many other things call to me from the menu: I really hope to try their carnitas sometime soon, and I'm curious about their queso dip, including the vegan cashew "queso." Although they don't seem to offer it right now, the online menu shows they also make crispy brussels sprouts with black garlic and smoked jalapeños. Doesn't that sound good?!

Given the times, Muchas Gracias is open right now from 4 to 8:45 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday for pickup (call to order) or online delivery via Caviar or Door Dash. Although this is billed as a pop-up, I hope it sticks around and becomes permanent. I couldn't be happier to have this down the street.

Muchas Gracias, 5029 Connecticut Ave., NW, (202)-244-5000.


Buck's Fishing and Camping

Comet Ping Pong