For a novelty cookbook I’m getting a lot of mileage out of Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee. I picked up the cookbook out of a sense of nostalgia for the old Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee daytime show. I’d still say the book is more fun to read than it is to cook from, but I’ve been impressed by the variety of dishes represented. And – since the recipes are engineered to be compatible with a five minute TV spot – the dishes are generally low-stress and suitable for weeknights. Which is why I chose Riverbank Barbecue Baked Beans to accompany my tri-tip taco feast last weekend. I’ve got a couple of reliable baked beans recipes that I fall back on when I run the smoker, but if I’ve got to futz around making taco toppings and such I want to keep the sides as simple as possible.
Which is why Riverbank Barbecue Baked Beans seemed appealing. Instead of soaking beans and frying bacon and the whole nine yards it relies primarily on canned commercial Pork and Beans. Like most recipes in Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee, Riverbank Barbecue Baked Beans is prefaced with a short profile of the celebrity guest or chef who presented the recipe on the show. This particular recipe comes courtesy of sportcaster Curt Gowdy who, for reasons that are not made clear, was on the show to pitch Nieman Marcus’ Pure & Simple Cookbook. The set was decorated like an outdoor scene – trees, tent, the whole shebang – with Regis wearing a bandana around his neck to boot. The dish is intended, apparently, to be cooked and served outdoors – hence the simple preparation and the eponymous riverbank.
The beans were indeed as convenient as the recipe suggested. They are also impossibly sweet, which I should have surmised from the ingredient list. Add the sweet relish, pineapple, brown sugar, and molasses to the already high-sugar sauces in the prepared Pork and Beans and you’ve crossed a line from hint-of-sweet to might-be-a-dessert. The sweetness is cut by the Worcestershire and vinegar, but not near enough to balance it out on its own. You’re not going to want to eat a bowl of Riverbank Barbecue Baked Beans straight, but they pair well with a larger meal.
As mentioned above, this was a perfect side dish for my Santa Maria-style tri-tip taco feast. Some of my family added the beans to their taco, more sauce than side dish, and others preferred to cut it with yellow rice to offset the sweetness. The side-dish-as-sauce approach would also work well with smoked pulled pork or chicken. perhaps with dark collard beans. I still can’t recommend it as a standalone dish – maybe, maybe if you tossed in a half a pound of cubed ham – but it’s a sweet and tangy foil to any number of rich and smoky mains. Enjoy!
- 2 16 oz cans prepared pork and beans (such as Van De Kamp's brand)
- 1 16 oz can Boston-style baked beans (or any variety that advertises "brown sugar", "maple syrup", or "sweet heat")
- 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple (drained)
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 large sweet onion (diced)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup molasses
- ¼ cup sweet pickle relish (drained)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp dry mustard powder
- seasoning salt (such as Lawry's brand)
- hot sauce
- Combine all ingredients except for seasoning salt and hot sauce in a large pot. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Add seasoning salt and hot sauce to taste.
- If not eating immediately, cover the pot and continue on a low simmer until it is time to serve.