That's how Mike described this dish - and he's dead on. The best baked beans I've ever had. Period.
Not that there's much competition out there.
If this is what you got in every can of Heinz Baked Beans, I would buy them by the truck load. They claim to be baked "in a deliciously rich tomato sauce" - so why in tarnation do they taste like ketchup and beans mixed together with pieces of that cheap breakfast ham thrown in? Heinz does make ketchup, people.
I'm just sayin'.
The secret to this stew tasting so darn tootin' good? [no pun intended]
Pork belly. And smoked sun-dried tomatoes. And pork belly. Oh yeah, and probably the beer I added on a whim.
The morning after I made this, I told a colleague, who is a HUGE fan of bacon, that I had just made the most fantastic pot of pork belly and bean stew last night. What'd he do? Shriveled up his nose like I had just described some kind of satanic stew. Not the reaction I was aiming for.
No silly, pork belly is not actually stomach. Pork belly is BACON, you know, the BELLY. Before it's cut to look like what you recognize as bacon.
I could not believe that a man of the sacred bacon was not familiar with thy pork belly.
He is now.
pork belly and white bean stew
1.5lbs pork belly, cut into 2" cubes
pork fat, butter, ghee or other heat stable fat
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp garlic, finely chopped [I used green garlic, but dried works too]
1.5 cups dried or 3 cups cooked navy beans
6-8 smoked [or not] sun-dried tomatoes
2-3 cups tomatoes, diced
1 bottle beer or 1.5 cups homemade beef stock
1 cup water or homemade beef stock [if using dry beans]
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp coriander
2 tbsp raw honey, raw cane or coconut [palm] sugar
Preheat the oven to 375* Fahrenheit.
In a large cast iron or heavy pot, heat about 1 tbsp fat over medium-high heat. Add half the pork belly and fry on all sides until browned. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with the remaining pork belly.
Add a bit more fat to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and saute the onions and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the pork belly back to the pot along with the beans [if using dry], tomatoes, beer, water/stock [if using dry beans], spices and sugar. Stir to combine. Cover and bake in the oven for 2 hours. If using cooked beans, add those in during the last hour.
Check liquid levels half and 3/4 of the way through and add a bit of water if needed. Stew should be thick, but not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Remove from the oven, taste and season with sea salt as needed. Allow to set for a few minutes and serve.