Say goodbye to the overly sweet baked beans of yore and hello to these smoky, chile-laced pork ‘n’ beans. Inspired by classic baked beans and pozole rojo, these focus less on the sweet and more on the heat. Flavored with deeply caramelized wedges of onion, meaty ham hock, oregano, and a fiery paste of rehydrated dried chiles, this side is sure to steal the show at any barbecue. And, it all comes together in All-Clad’s FUSIONTEC™ 4.5-Quart Universal Pan, which goes from oven to picnic table in sleek summer style.
The backbone of this dish is dried chiles. Nowadays there’s a plethora of dried chiles on the market, so here’s where you can really have fun with it. You can dial up the fruitiness, the smokiness, and the heat level with whatever mix of chiles you choose.
If you’re new to dried chiles, start with a mix of ancho and guajillo chiles (traditionally used for pozole rojo), and a few chiles de árbol for a touch of spice. I’m a heat seeker, so I like to sneak one smoked sivathei chilli (it’s ghost pepper-level hot, so be warned) into the mix along with milder chiles like Indian resham patti or California-grown Espelette peppers to balance the fire. If you want a little extra smokiness, try adding one or two canned chipotle peppers in adobo.
Want to turn these beans into the main event? Learn how in three, easy steps.
Test Kitchen Notes
- Prep time 4 hours 30 minutes
- Cook time 3 hours
- Serves 6 to 8
dried mild, creamy beans (such as cannellini, mayocoba or cranberry)
mixed, dried red chiles (such as ancho, guajillo, resham patti or espelette, stems removed)
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
large white onion, cut into sixths with the root end remaining
head garlic, top quarter sliced off
1 1/2 teaspoons
brown sugar, lightly packed
(1- to 1 1/4-pound) smoked ham hock
apple cider vinegar
lime, cut into wedges
- Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water, making sure there is at least 4 inches of water above the beans (they’ll expand when soaking!). Depending on the age and size of your beans, soak for 4 hours to up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Place the dried chiles in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the water to make sure the chiles stay submerged. Soak until the chiles are soft and pliable, about 15 minutes. Transfer the soaked chiles and 3/4 cup soaking liquid to a blender, puree on low at first (the chiles will still be hot and you don’t want a chile explosion), and gradually increase the speed to high, pureeing the chiles into a fine paste. Set aside.
- Heat the All-Clad FUSIONTEC™ 4.5-quart Universal Pan or a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and heat for another 30 seconds. Add the onions and brown on both sides until deeply caramelized and almost charred, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. During the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking, add the garlic head, cut side-down, and brown until golden (do not char the garlic as much as the onions because it will become bitter). Remove the garlic and onions, transfer them to a plate and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomato paste and cumin seeds, and sauté until the tomato paste turns brick red and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oregano sprigs and bay leaves and continue to cook for another 30 seconds. Add the reserved blended chiles, salt, brown sugar, and 5 cups of water. Nestle the ham hock into the center of the pan. At this point make sure the lid can close snuggly on top of the pan. If the ham hock is too tall, you may have to trim an inch of ham off the bottom for it to fit (yes, toss the trimmings in, too!).
- Pour the beans around the ham hock and nestle the reserved onions and garlic into the broth. Cover and simmer on the stove for 10 minutes to heat the ham hock through. Transfer to the oven and cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size and age of the beans. Check the beans every 45 minutes or so—if the beans are looking a little dry, add 1/2 cup of water at a time. After 3 hours, taste the beans and season with a little more salt, if necessary (this will depend on the saltiness of the ham hock). Return the pot to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the bean liquid has reduced by a third and is thick, saucy, and still a little brothy, about another 25 to 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, transfer the ham hock to a cutting board, and recover the beans, placing them back in the turned-off oven to stay warm. Let the ham hock cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then, using your fingers and a paring knife, pull the pieces of ham off the bone. Very roughly chop the ham, add it back to the beans along with a splash of apple cider vinegar, and gently stir to combine. Serve straight from the pan accompanied by a bowl of limes for squeezing over individual portions. If you’re making a meal out of the beans, serve with your desired toppings and enjoy!