Root Beer Baked Beans
- 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (12-ounce bottle) root beer
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- Hefty pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala, store bought or homemade, recipe follows
- 2 (14-ounce cans) cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Aarti's Hot (not heavy!) Homemade Garam Masala:
- 3 large cinnamon sticks (if you have the kind you get at Indian stores, it's about 3 tablespoons of cinnamon bark bits)
- 3 tablespoons whole cloves
- 1/4 cup green cardamom pods, shelled, husks discarded (about 2 tablespoons of seeds)
- 4 large black cardamom pods, shelled, husks discarded (about 1 tablespoon of seeds), optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Set a medium oven-safe pot over moderate heat and add bacon. Cook until most of the fat is rendered out and the bacon is crisp. Prepare a plate with paper towels, and using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pot to the plate. Set about a quarter of the bacon aside, for garnish.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the pot, and saute until soft and golden. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste deepens in color, about another minute.
Next add the root beer, cider vinegar, molasses, grainy mustard, red pepper flakes and garam masala. Stir to combine. Then add the beans and bacon, and gently stir so the beans don't lose their shape. Taste for salt and pepper, then pop into the oven, uncovered, until the mixture thickens, about 30 minutes. Remove the beans from the oven, let it cool slightly, and sprinkle with reserved bacon and serve.Aarti's Hot (not heavy!) Homemade Garam Masala:
Combine the cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom seeds, black cardamom seeds, if using into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind until fine. Store the spice mix in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. Yield: about 1/2 cup.