Like so many dishes at Superiority Burger, these BBQ baked beans just happen to be vegan—and crazy good. If you haven’t been, Superiority Burger is Brooks Headley’s all-vegetarian burger joint in Manhattan’s East Village. It’s as much known for its tofu-fried tofu sandwiches as it is for its flavor-of-the-day gelatos. In this recipe, Headley super-sizes baked beans, turning to one of our favorites: gigantes, which are, well, meaty. They bathe in all the good things, like tomatoes and brown sugar and espresso. Then, they’re piled atop crisped polenta planks and a chickpea mayo–dressed coleslaw. Follow the whole thing to script—or go rogue and streamline the toppings (say, toast some cornbread and just buy the mayo).
Drain the beans and put in a sturdy oven-safe pot, like a Dutch oven. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add enough grapeseed oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until not raw anymore, basically. Add the water, espresso powder, tomato puree, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, and hot sauce and bring to a rolling boil. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the liquid over the beans. Add the olive oil to the beans and juice.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil or a lid and put in the oven. This is going to take a while. Check after 2 hours and make sure not too much of the liquid has evaporated. If it has, just add more water, cover, and cook some more. Check every hour or so until the beans are tender. Remove from the oven and season generously with salt and pepper. Let sit—the beans will absorb a lot of this liquid and release starch to make a thick sauce.
Mix together the cabbage with the dill, mayo, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper in a medium bowl. In a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet set over medium heat, heat a few tablespoons of grapeseed oil until shimmering. For each serving, sear a polenta plank on one side until golden brown and a little crispy, then flip it and sear the other side. Transfer to a plate, top generously with beans and bean sauce, and finish with a mound of the cabbage slaw.
Chickpea mayo and polenta planks
Make the chickpea mayo. Combine the chickpea liquid, chickpeas, mustard, cider vinegar, sugar, and salt in a tall container just large enough to fit the head of an immersion blender. Blend at high speed until the mixture is completely smooth and all the whole chickpeas are broken down. While the blender is running, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil. As you add the oil, an emulsion will form and it will begin to thicken. Check the seasoning for salt and sugar. This will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
Make the polenta planks. Lightly grease a quarter sheet pan or an 8- inch square baking pan with a little bit of olive oil. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add salt and taste the water—it should taste well seasoned. While whisking, pour the polenta into the boiling water. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. When ready, check the seasoning again for salt and then carefully pour the hot polenta into the pan and smooth the top as evenly as possible. Let set up at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. It will cut most easily into clean pieces if refrigerated for a couple hours or overnight. Cut into 12 planks.