While I will admit to a fondness for baked beans, I’ve always shied away from the canned version because I am not a fan of sweet foods. Sure, I’ll indulge if I encounter the canned version, but I won’t buy them unless I have a serious craving.
Yeah, I crave baked beans.
If the craving is minor and time is plentiful — or I know I need a killer dish to bring to a barbecue — I go straight for my crockpot and let the beans cook overnight. The slow cooker does all the work of cooking the beans through while developing a rich sauce that is just sweet enough with some tangy and spicy flavors to balance that sweetness. Best of all: no soaking required! I just toss everything into the crockpot, and let it work while I catch up on TV and much-needed sleep.
Since I’m half Hungarian, I’d like to pretend that I’ve been making this dish since birth. The truth is I’ve only been making it for a few years. While you can make it spicy with the addition of cayenne or hot paprika, I like the way the onions and paprika mellow into a slightly sweet and smoky dish. Some dishes don’t need to be spicy hot!
This version uses chicken on the bone (I generally use thighs because they are so good and relatively inexpensive), but you can substitute boneless meat. The volume of onions will seem huge, but they cook down pretty quickly. The longer the onions braise, the more they melt into the sauce.
If you’re making this for a party, transfer the browned meat and onions to a crockpot and cook on low for several hours. I prefer using cut-up boneless thighs if I’m making this for a party.
For months, I stared at a recipe I’d pulled from Food and Wine magazine: a Pork Tinga from Rick Bayless. It looked delicious…and time-consuming. I am not opposed to time-consuming recipes (obviously!), but, for some reason, this particular recipe daunted me. Yet I kept coming back to it.
Then my husband had knee surgery, and I needed a lot of free freezer space to store the ice we needed to keep the swelling down (he had a machine that did the hard part, but it need to be fed a lot of ice). In my “what can I cook right now?” frenzy, I ran across a bag of boneless pork shoulder that fit the description.
But, time. Time. The Pork Tinga recipe didn’t fit my available time. However, something done up in the crockpot would work just fine. We love pulled pork, we love Mexican flavors, we love easy meals. So I stole the concept of the recipe and worked it into a delicious meal that showcases a favorite food while providing enough leftovers for other meals.