If there’s a month for fine dining, it’s February. When you hear the phrase “fine dining,” what foods might you think of? Fresh caught seafood, artisan cuts of beef, or maybe even baked beans? While they may not be considered typical fine dining fare, with the right knowledge and preparation, you can elevate simple baked beans to the most exquisite destination. Join us on this tasty journey to the French region of Charente as we spice up some Randall’s Great Northern Beans.

Charente is an inland region of France known for its central clean water river (also called Charente) and its production of salt and cognac. The salt, pepper, and liquors used in this recipe are reminiscent of the signature tastes and ingredients used in the regional dishes of Charente. These aromatic and distinct flavors add body and weight to the beans and flesh out the profile of the red sauce.

We’ve also included eggplant and tomatoes into this recipe, if you’d like to create a wonderful dinnertime meal for your family. The baked beans a la Charente form a spectacular bed of flavors for the crunchy, meaty eggplant and juicy tomato slices. Let us know how you fancy this wintertime visit to southern France!

 

Baked Beans á la Charente

Ingredients

  • 1 24-ounce jar Randall Great Northern Beans
  • salted water
  • 1 medium onion stuck with 2 or 3 cloves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup thick tomato paste
  • 1 cup cooking liquid from beans
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1/2 cup dry red table wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 eggplant (optional)
  • Olive oil (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add Randall Beans, the onion stuck with 2 or 3 cloves, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf in pot with water. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  2. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the liquid; discard the onion, bay leaf, and garlic.
  3. Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the chopped onion until it is tender. Add the tomato paste, the parsley, the liquid from the Randall Beans, the cognac, and the wine. (Use good wine and a good cognac – it is very important to the flavor of the beans.) This sauce should simmer for at least 15 minutes, or until it is slightly thickened and reduced. Season it with a little salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and a little Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Pour the drained beans into the sauce and mix well.
  5. Rub a large casserole lightly with olive oil, then pour the beans into it.
  6. Now, if you want to be fancy, slice the eggplant (without peeling it) into 1/2 inch slices, and also slice the tomatoes. Brush the eggplant slices lightly with olive oil and put them under the broiler for a few minutes. Dust all the slices with salt and pepper and overlap them – alternating eggplant and tomato – in a circular fashion on top of the beans. Cover the casserole and bake at 325 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Serve hot - serves 6.
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