Meal in a Kettle

Meaty Baked Beans (North Carolina Cassoulet)

January 17, 2017

Born and raised in London and cooking by the time he was 14, chef Tom Condron of The Liberty  in Charlotte, N.C., has worked under eight Michelin-starred chefs. That gives these “meaty baked beans” a pedigree–they’re really a North Carolina cassoulet. Put the kettle on early in the morning on a rainy day to start the ham stock and by suppertime, you’ll have this rich, meaty stew ready. At The Liberty, Condron  tells me serves the meaty beans with different cuts of pork every night, working his way from tip to tail of the whole hog. You can also serve this as a sidedish as we did–with a ham, mac & cheese & greens–but there’s enough meat in this stew to make it a meal in itself.

Meaty Baked Beans (North Carolina Cassoulet)
Serves 8
These meaty baked beans are really a cassoulet, North Carolina style.
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Ingredients
  1. FOR HAM-HOCK BROTH
  2. 5 lbs rib, shoulder and neck bones from a small pig ( have your butcher cut trimmings into small pieces)
  3. 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  4. 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  5. 2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
  6. 4 cloves garlic, diced
  7. 2 bay leaves
  8. 4 ham hocks
  9. FOR BAKED BEANS
  10. 2 lbs pork shoulder, bone-in
  11. salt and pepper
  12. olive oil or peanut oil
  13. 1 cup dried navy beans
  14. 4 oz fat back
  15. 4 oz applewood smoke bacon in strips
  16. 2 ham hocks, approximately 6 oz each
  17. 2 yellow onions, chopped
  18. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  19. 2 bay leaves
  20. 5 cups ham hock broth
Instructions
  1. Make ham-hock broth: Rinse trimmings in cold water. Place in a preheated 400 degree oven and roast for 30 minutes. Place browned trimmings in a large stockpot. Add carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves and ham hocks. Simmer for 4 hours. Strain, cool and reserve.
  2. Make beans: Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Brown on both sides with oilve or peanut oil in heavy, cast-iron skillet. When browned, remove from heat. Place in a large Dutch oven along with navy beans, fat back, bacon left in strips, ham hocks, onions, fresh thyme, bay leaves and five cups of ham-hock broth.
  3. Bring to a simmer. Cover tightly and place in a preheated 325 degree oven for 2 hours and 15 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, remove the shoulder and set aside to cool. Remove half of the liquid and set aside. Remove the beans to a shallow container to cool (It’s important to separate the beans out so that they don’t overcook in liquid and become too starchy before they can cool.)
  4. When the meats are cool enough to handle, shred and coarsely chop all. Add white beans. Taste and season accordingly.
  5. To serve, fill bowls with meat and beans and ladle some of the rich cooking liquid over.
Notes
  1. Work with your local butcher to get the meats you need for this dish. The recipe will yield extra ham-hock broth. Use it to make a great batch of pea soup!
Adapted from Chef Tom Condron, The Liberty, Charlotte, N.C.
Adapted from Chef Tom Condron, The Liberty, Charlotte, N.C.
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