Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Neck Bone's Connected to the Head Bone

Paul recently asked me to make beans and cornbread and I said I would. I don't cook up a mess o' beans too often, despite writing a while back about baking soda and the gas factor. In the past when making slow cooked down home rustic beans I've used smoked pork hocks. They add a nice smoky flavor as well as a little meat, but the downside is the giant hunk of skin that has to be removed, along with the pool of grease floating on top. So, while perusing the meat counter, I noticed smoked pork neck bones sitting next to the hocks and turkey necks. The neck bones looked fairly meaty and lean so I decided to be daring; afterall, neck bones have been used in southern cooking for ages, right???

In addition, I decided to get out my big crock pot - not the old kind from the '70's you try to wash without getting the cord wet. You can actually take the crock out and wash it! Yay! I figured I'd soak the beans overnight and then cook them in the pot all day while I was at work. No baking soda duties as I wanted to crock'em. Well, they cooked all day on low and when I checked them the beans were still crunchy and the meat was clinging to dem bones. Horroirs! (as Pepe LePew would say) I went to Plan B and poured everything into a soup pot and simmered away for another 1-1/2 hours, until the meat was falling off the vertebrae, so to speak. Also, there wasn't much of a gas factor, if you get my drift. Here's the recipe:

1 lb. dried pink beans
1 package smoked pork necks (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
1 small onion, medium chop
1 small carrot, diced small
1 tb chili powder, such as Grandma's or Gebhardt's
1 tb Spanish hot smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 14.5 oz can reduced sodium chicken broth
enough water to cover by at least 1 inch
anything else you'd like to throw in

Soak the beans overnight, covered with water by at least 2 inches. Drain
and rinse.

Using a large crockpot, add the necks, cover with beans, and remaining ingredients, stir, cover, and fire that baby up - on HIGH. Start first thing in the morning and let it go all day. Meat should be falling of the bones - remove the vertebrae and serve. Please note I don't mention salt; between the smoked necks and chicken broth we didn't need any. So adjust your seasonings at the end. The carrots add sweetness; I cut them small and they actually dissolved into the dish. Sue said it tasted like a cassoulet - a French rustic dish with beans, sausage and esoteric duck legs. Except no duck or sausage, just good ol' American pig necks!

Speaking of beans, here's an interesting movie I snagged from Netflix: Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's. Chasen's was a restaurant that the Hollywood crowd frequented during its heyday. The glitterati weren't the interesting part - the fascinating part was the people who worked there! I loved the waiter who was on a first name basis with Frank Sinatra. Ok, back to
the beans: Chasen's chili was so popular that Elizabeth Taylor had it shipped to her in Rome during the making of Cleopatra. You can get the recipe here. I have it on good authority that this is the real mccoy! I am going to try it out sometime this year; let me know if you do too!

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