Friday, September 5, 2014

Fiddling as Dinner Burns

Partner and I both own violins.  Mine is about 10 years old, cheap and shiny looking.  His, at quick glance, looks like it's been around.

One day, when we first starting hanging out together, I was tidying up and was being a little less than gentle with the instruments left on a table, and I heard  "Hon, you might want to be careful with that..."

It seems his violin is insured for more than my first home.

He played his once in an orchestra in Austria when he was a young man.  Mine was once played in an Irish bar in Canton, Ohio, badly. I avoid public performances though I once got talked into karaoke in a bar in Fort Meyers,  Florida where I sang, to the tune of Willie Nelsons "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain",  "Blue Hairs Driving in my Lane".  I got rousing applause but only from the tone deaf tourists.

But I love music.  I  had many years of lessons in classical piano, and clarinet, playing both in band and orchestra, and competing in state music competitions all through high school and the first years of college, before I discovered airplanes and science. The fiddle was one of those 2 beers in--I bet I could learn to play THAT!" moments, which has been fun., though I'm not any good at it.  But Partner is good, thanks to his parents support and encouragement, though he hadn't played for years, completing his degree and embarking on a  career that takes him around the world, consuming much of his time.

But he did dust it off to play for a  college friend's wedding.  I remember it well.  I got "dressed to the nine's" as we used to say, girly clothes and everything including high heels.  When I was at the entrance to the sanctuary of the church,  the young man who was serving as usher looked perplexed.  I was not anyone's parent he recognized and I definitely wasn't of the generation of the bridal party.  He DID seem to like my legs, but  didn't seem to know where to seat me.  I looked at him and said "I'm with the band", at which point Partner looked over and smiled.

Fun day, and good music, even if he hadn't played for a while.

While you listen to that, I'm getting supper out of the oven for my Friday night, a bean recipe, one of my favorites, it being the "musical fruit" and all.

These aren't your Mom's baked beans. With a hot Chinese chili pepper baked in the middle of them, they have a decided kick but even without the chili, they are very good.
You start with a small, chopped and "sautéed until caramelized" onion, a few strips of red pepper, and a little green pepper (I had only a dab left after breakfast eggs). Throw in a Tien Tsin chili pepper (I get mine, you guessed it, at Penzeys). Normally used in Asian cooking (from which you can make really good homemade chili oil for potstickers) these are a hot but flavorful addition to soup, stews and chili. The pods are 1 to 2 and a half inches in length. Use a smaller pod (do not cut a large one in half) for two stars HOT, use a the larger pod for 3 stars hot. (I used the largest one). And do NOT forget to remove it before serving unless you want to see a grown man (or woman) cry.

Add to that the large can of Bush's (my favorite canned bean) maple baked beans (about 3 and a half cups), 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups leftover cooked pintos (or one small can, drained), 2 heaping teaspoons of yellow mustard, 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of Penzey's Northwoods seasoning (coarse flake salt, paprika, chipotle pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, rosemary and garlic) and a pinch of dried jalapeno .
If you don't have Northwoods seasoning, use your favorite all purpose seasoning plus a dash of Paprika and garlic powder but it's worth a trip to Penzeys Spices online or one of their stores (there's one in Indy).
Lastly, stir in 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.  I love Cattlemens, which is getting harder to find, but I understand Costco now has it by the gallon, online, at least ( preppers barbecue heaven).  To that add 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and a tablespoon or two of beer. (You know, so you can say, "but honey the recipe CALLED for some beer and I don't want to waste the rest".)

Fry up 6 strips of extra thick smoked bacon. Remove 4 strips when only partially cooked. and continue cooking the last two. Chop the two fully cooked pieces extra fine and put in the beans. Lay the partially cooked strips on top (they will finish cooking but will be soft, but partially cooking them gets rid of a lot of the grease). Here's what it looked like as it went into the oven.
Bake at 250 F. for two to two and a half hours (yes two and a half hours).  Note: If you want a wimpy version, remove the red chili with a slotted spoon halfway through cooking). Chop up the soft bacon on top and stir in. This will feed 4-5 hungry folks as a side dish and can easily be doubled. 

Thick, rich, smoky, sweet, HOT. Sometimes the good things take a little time.