A Boston Dinner?
Perhaps my favorite comfort food meal is this odd combination of breakfast links, baked beans, and applesauce. Is this a Boston thing?
At my college outside of Boston (then Dean Jr. College, now Dean College), it was the only thing I liked in their cafeteria. Compared to my parents’ food and Princeton High School’s cafeteria (which had great salad as I remember), the College food seemed TERRIBLE to this student.
But on Saturday nights they served this unlikely trio and I was quickly won over. I’ve posted on Facebook about it before, but since I just had it again the other night, thought it worth a more detailed blog post.
The sausage should be breakfast links, for me it has to be the kind with sage. I love the ones from the Amish Market near me, but recently ordered some from FreshDirect which are also good. Since their links are bigger, one is a serving for me, where the ones from the Amish market are small, so two “per.” And once, when I was out of sausage but really wanted that meal, I thawed some ground pork I had in the freezer and mixed it with spices. After letting it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, it made excellent patties. (Hint: if you don’t care about casings, making your own sausage is child’s play.)
The applesauce – I use plain, unsweetened applesauce, usually those single serve tubs from Trader Joe’s, but this week I had homemade. No cinnamon for this girl, either, just plain apples.
The beans – my favorite are Bush’s baked beans with onion, but I often keep another kind or two on hand, just to switch things up occasionally. But, just like my mother, I doctor them up a little with a squirt of ketchup, a teaspoon or so of dry mustard (I use Chinese hot mustard for some reason, not sure when/how that started), and maybe a bit of molasses or vinegar.
That’s it, and if you think it’s just too strange, I do understand, but I find it deeply satisfying on a cold winter night, or even an unseasonably cool night the rest of the year.
My college friend John Cole commented on a brief Facebook post I did on this last May that he remembers they offered roasted potatoes at that meal too, and I do agree that sounds like it would be very good, although it requires more planning.
I keep thinking this meal must be a typical Boston thing, and online I found a similar meal here, in a casserole version that mentions serving it with brown bread. Sounds great to me, I can just hear that “Bah-ston” accent now.
I also found, on Food Network, an apple-baked bean casserole topped with bacon from Paula Deen that is more of a side dish (to me, anyway), but easy to do for a crowd.
Thanks for the happy memories. Boston Baked Beans were the essence of that city when Diane was at Harvard junior year, and met Massimo Maffeis of Bergamo, Italy, in the 1980s. Mass loved everything New England — and we made every specialty for him, ‘from scratch’. And of course he wanted to know where that saying came from, and we were no help!
At President Kennedy’s boyhood home, one learns that they had this supper (well I don’t remember about the sage part) every Saturday, made in quantities so that it could be eaten on Sunday. When I was a child, we were not supposed to work on Sunday — this was taken very seriously in many a home in Michigan.
I don’t remember if the Kennedys ate this for breakfast and lunch or only for one meal on Sunday. Beans were really important to the lad, despite his being so sickly so much of his childhood.
I well remember the challenge of trying to find salt pork in Princeton, let alone New Hope, so that we could transform Great Northern (white) beans into Mass’s cherished casserole, (yes, a little ketchup; yes a little interesting mustard). It was was to be served with Harrington’s ham from Vermont – corn-cob smoked and maple-cured, of course. Either sauteed apple slices or applesauce, indeed, and no! cinnamon.
And corn bread– Diane was a master at any baked good, the more elegant and subtle the better — corn bread was ‘a piece of cake’ for her. And no, we couldn’t explain that phrase to Mass either.
My Plimoth [sic] Colony cookbook (bright red, falling apart, first edition, 1957) mandates brown bread or ‘rye ‘n’ injun’ — both based on cornmeal. Pilgrim Breakfasts at the Harlow Old Fort House, 1677 construction, involved “beans and fish cakes.” This book covers not only beans as what we would call a casserole [“cook at least six hours…:=”], but also as bean porridge’, –beans stewed in liquid from corned beef, involving white beans and hulled corn. This was often hung outside in a shed to freeze, and was better “nine days old”. I like their complaints in verse about too many pumpkins, and “How to Cook a Red Deer.”
Thanks for reminding me of many happy times. Glad these staples, these early American traditions nourished you in reality and in memory. c