It has been 1 year, 6 months and 6 days since I last shared a recipe for a stacked, filled, and unconscionably indulgent layer cake on this site, an unforgivable oversight on my part. I certainly haven’t gone that long without sharing any cake recipes — I’m not a monster — but sometimes you need more than an Everyday Cake. Sometimes you need a great big celebratory ta-da in the center of your table. Sometime like now.
Nothing against barbecue-style baked beans, all tangy sauced and full of smoky burnt end drippings — hi summer, get here quick please — but I hardly see why navy beans get to have all of the fun. Where are the baked kidney beans, black-eyed peas and gigantes? Baking is a phenomenal way to cook dried beans and a great way to make something more complex of canned ones; when you start considering flavors, the sky, nay, the globe is the limit. I want these red beans slow-baked in a big casserole, scooped with tortilla chips. I want baked black beans heaped over tostones, braised white beans over Catalan-style tomato bread and I want what we had for dinner last night for the first time all over again, because it was perfect.
In the almost six years since I last waddled around in the name of procreation — I know, I make it sound so glowy and glamorous — to my delight, two things in particular have changed: 1. You can now get maternity pants that have almost all of the dignity of regular ones, thanks to small elastic panels above each pocket that frankly would be as welcome the day after Thanksgiving as they are now that I’m approaching the six-month mark and people no longer believe me when I said I just had a really big lunch. (However, a New York-specific rule remains: you’re not actually “big” until someone willingly cedes his or her seat on the subway for you, by which standards, I must be svelte. Hey, I’ll take it.) 2. More pertinently to the scope of a cooking website, a whole lot of bars are making really great mocktails.
I was going to offer today a kind of loose apology. “Sorry, guys, for all of the potatoes and eggs and utter randomness of recipes this winter,” and then shamelessly go onto blame this approaching third-trimester (ack, too soon) situation with its still-unpredictable food cravings I’m in but then I realized: this is actually nothing new. There isn’t a recipe in the almost 9 years and 975-deep archives on this site that hasn’t been fueled wholly by hankerings, usually arbitrary ones. Some people have lesson plans and editorial calendars, I have whims. It’s just now I have a tiny thing — a future rock star, if the dance party from 2 to 6 a.m. last night is indication — to blame for it.
Does anyone ever need an excuse to eat pie? Nobody we should be friends with, is my mantra. But, in an effort at inclusivity, here is a handy dandy excuse-finder, should you need a little convincing:
- Because it is not Friday yet.
- Because you probably woke up before you wanted to, and went to a job that even if you love, is still by definition something you wouldn’t do for free. Pie is an excellent consolation prize.
- Because yesterday felt like spring and everyone’s 3-month bad mood instantly evaporated. Today you needed a hat and gloves again. And a slice of pie, warmed just enough that a scoop of vanilla ice cream trickles over it.
- Because you’re probably never going to win that Maine Inn in time for lobster and blueberries season with an essay. (Although we are all rooting for you. And blueberry pie.)
- Because if you’re in the Northeast, fresh fruit pies are still months off, which means you get to make pies with chocolate and gooey caramel instead.
I swear, this wholesome-looking meal isn’t penance for anything. It’s not a budget-friendly apology for the frenetic unplanned redecorating project or atonement for the fact that I’ve basically only wanted to eat chocolate, peanut butter, bread and pasta for the last 22 weeks. It’s not compensation for the frosting that didn’t make it onto the cake and was eaten instead with a spoon, or the impulsive meringues last weekend. It’s only ever-so-quietly a warning that the next thing coming on this site is so decadent, you might wish to advance yourself some greens, grains and beans.
I’m pretty sure I’m the last person in the cooking-obsessed world to get Sean Brock Fever, the chef behind McCrady’s, Husk, and Minero in Charleston. Worse, this is probably a good time to admit that I was sent his first cookbook, Heritage, when it came out and rejected it on sight alone. There was something about those sleeve tattoos cupping the sacred rainbow beans, an image I’ve seen variations on countless other farm-to-table cookbook covers and magazine spreads, that put me off. Skimming the recipes didn’t always help. Your red peas, cornmeal and gold rice should be from Anson Mills, and if not, at least the cornmeal should be fresh from a gristmill. Your tomatoes should be home-canned, or at the very least, San Marzano. Your pork should be from a heritage pig, your buttermilk and goat cheese should come from a local farm, as should your Red Bliss potatoes; this is your heritage after all.