After he had finished checking over the salads his understudy had made and peeked in on the home-baked beans they were using as appetizers this week, Hallorann untied his apron, hung it on a hook, and slipped out the back door. He had maybe forty-five minutes before he had to crank up for dinner in earnest.
The name of this place was the Red Arrow Lodge, and it was buried in the western Maine mountains, thirty miles from the town of Rangely. It was a good gig, Hallorann thought. . .
I’ll never understand why Dick Hollarann, after barely surviving that fire at The Black Spot when he was nineteen, came back to Maine. But he did, year after year; I have his original bean recipe from Red Arrow Lodge to prove it. He used one part salt pork, by weight, with two parts dried beans; he scored the rind and buried the pork under the beans along with the onion.
I’ve eliminated the pork here, but I still use his heavy hand with the pepper to counter gas; not sure it works, but I do know peppery beans taste best.
Makes 8 servings
3 cups large dry beans (such as Marfax, yellow eye, or kidney; see “Beans,” page 000, and Note)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion, halved
1 bay leaf
About 4 cups boiling water
Rinse the dry beans and, in a large bowl, combine them with enough warm water to cover by 4 inches. Cover with a clean dish towel and leave on the counter overnight. Drain the beans.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the beans with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add the 1 tablespoon salt, bring to a boil, and maintain a low boil for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook until the beans are tender and the skins burst when you blow on a spoonful of them, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
Position an oven rack on the bottom rung and heat the oven to 250°F.
In a bean pot or Dutch oven, combine the beans, molasses, maple syrup, vinegar, tomato paste, mustard, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper and stir well. Bury the onion and bay leaf beneath the beans and add just enough of the boiling water to cover. Cover and bake until tender, 3 to 4 hours, checking occasionally to ensure the beans are not dry. Keep adding just enough boiling water to cover if necessary.
Transfer the pot of beans to a wire rack or trivet, discard the bay leaf, and serve piping hot.
Dry kidney beans contain a toxic protein called phytohemagglutinin that can cause gastrointestinal distress. They must be boiled for 10 minutes to destroy it.
If your dried beans have been in your pantry for more than six months, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking water to help them soften. Rinse well before proceeding with the recipe.