I couldn't wait to cook this weekend. It was really the first time in a little over a month that I've been able to allocate several hours to cooking, and boy did I miss it. Cooking is cathartic for me. I release a lot of tension, anxiety, and stress while whipping up victuals in the kitchen, and I needed this, so badly. I've been using these lovely menu planners I found online since I went veg-head, because I knew it'd be helpful if I was a bit more deliberate about what I was cooking, so I wouldn't be stuck without an ingredient, or so that I would have time to develop veg alternatives for things: bacon, stock, etc.
One of the first things I wrote down on my planner was: Beer Braised White Beans. I stumbled across the recipe about a month ago, and when I decided to go vegetarian, I knew immediately I had to make this. Only caveat was that it's not a quick dish, so I had to plan it for a day I knew I'd have the time to spend making it. The original creators of the recipe tout is as "the best beans we've ever made". Two bottles of beer do not a bad pot of beans, make, so I was eager to try these out. I figured a good accompaniment to the beans would be something bread-y. I thought cornbread at first but wanted something less predictable. The minute I ran into a recipe for Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Scones, I knew that was it.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not a baker. In general, I stay away from anything that has yeast in it (this screams "CHEMISTRY!!" to me and makes my knees knock in fear and I revert back to 10th grade being trapped in chem lab not having any clue how to do anything) or requires a dough hook (which I do not have the economic capacity to yet own). Thankfully, scones avoid both of these fear-inducing items, and are really easy to mix up in a large bowl with naught but the primitive and lowly (and way less expensive than a Kitchen-Aid mixer with dough hook) wooden spoon. All I have to say about these scones is: I spent all day at work today thinking about them, sitting on my counter, waiting for me to get home and eat them. They are, in a word, AWESOME. You should make them.
I had to adapt the recipe for the white beans pretty generously. The original called for bacon, and despite several attempts to get some Twitter feeback about veggie alternatives for the smoky/salty umami of bacon, I just decided to try using some liquid smoke. I figured if I used a little at a time, I could control the level of smokiness. I was right--the smoky flavor is a bit more direct that bacon, but it did a great job substituting. Also, to replace the fat that would normally be used after cooking the bacon off, I used a combo of olive oil and butter. This helped to make up for the richer flavor pork fat would contribute. Finally, I swapped veggie stock for the original recipe's chicken stock.
Beer Braised White Beans
Adapted from The Bitten Word
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 TBL honey
1 sprig rosemary
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 lb. dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini, picked over, soaked overnight, and drained
2 bottles Belgian-style white ale (I used Hoegaarden)
1 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 TBL extra virgin olive oil
1 TBL butter
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 TBL cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, add onion and garlic to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 4 minutes. Add mustard and honey; cook 1 minute. Add rosemary, beans, beer, liquid smoke and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil; cover and transfer to oven.
Bake until beans are tender and most of liquid is absorbed, about 2 hours. Season to taste with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Serves 6.
Note about soaking beans (thanks Mom!): Soak your beans for a minimum of 24 hours, changing out the water every 4-6 hours or so. Use 8 cups of cold water for every 1 pound of dried beans.
Gruyere & Caramelized Onion Scones
Adapted from Tasting Table
1 stick really cold unsalted butter cut into ½-inch pieces, plus 1 tablespoon (for caramelizing onions)
2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
2¾ cups all-purpose flour plus extra for shaping
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup ½-inch Gruyère cubes (about 4 ounces)
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup honey
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a medium skillet set over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are deep brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.
While the onions cool, in a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt. Using a pastry cutter, (or if you're so inclined, a food processor), cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly with butter pieces no larger than a small pea. Stir in the Gruyère cubes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and honey. Add the caramelized onions and gently stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine (a few dry spots are okay). Turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and gently pat into a 1-inch thick circle. Use a lightly-floured 3-inch round cutter (or the rim of a glass, like I did!) to stamp out circles and place them 3 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Gather the scraps and press together and stamp to make more scones. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper (if you like) and bake until the scones are deep golden-brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, 20 to 23 minutes. Makes approximately 10 scones.
The beans were warm, hearty and toothsome in the most pleasant way. And, believe this or not, I didn't miss the bacon (this might be the only time you ever hear me say that), not one bit. The scones were flaky and light, a perfect balance of sweetness from the honey and onions, and savory from the cheese and buttermilk. The next morning I reheated one cut it in half and slapped a few lightly scrambled eggs in there, topped with some extra grated gruyere. *swallow* Pardon me, my mouth is watering. Yeah, that was damn good. They are honestly one of the best things I've ever made. Please, please please promise me you'll try them. Or you'll have to come over and eat them the next time I make them!
No Alex's Wine Rack this time. Because I used 2 bottles of beer in the beans, he said it's best to just stick with that, so make sure you get a sixer so you can throw a few of the extras back with your delicious meal!