Saturday, August 13, 2005
British Soul Food: Beans on Toast 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Heinz Beans, just like the kind Roger Daltrey of the Who bathes inThis week, I cooked up (oops, now I'm using "drug slang") my first batch of honest-to-goodness Beans on Toast. If the turquoise-blue can looks familiar, it's because you've probably seen a gigantic version on the cover of the Who's 1967 album, The Who Sell Out: the one where Pete Townshend sticks a foot-high can of *Odorono in his pit in the left panel, while Roger Daltrey sits in a bean-filled bathtub holding a huge can of Heinz Baked Beans on the right. The tub-full-of-beans image seems to have been imitated a few times by other people: its humorous gunge-fetish esthetic is obvious. But, I'm going off on a tangent...we're talking Beans on Toast, a much tastier and healthier dish than its mid-Century U.S. counterpart, Sh-t on a Shingle [click for an S.O.S. recipe from the Navy Wives Cookbook].

Of course you need the blue can to make real Beans on Toast. American baked beans, while fine for picnics and barbecues, don't work as a substitute. Campers, college students and minimum-wage workers have been eating baked bean sandwiches for ages, but they're nothing like this dish. You'll find stateside beans are smaller and unsatisfyingly mushy, and the tomato sauce too sweet and syrupy for this savory meal. British Heinz Beans can be hard to find, but I recently discovered Patel Brothers grocery (a splendid East Indian market on Devon Avenue in Chicago) carries authentic import beans for only 99 cents per 13.5-ounce can - much cheaper than I've seen in various European import markets.

Traditionally, Beans on Toast is prepared by toasting a piece of sandwich bread and topping it with heated - not boiled, because that "impairs flavor" according to the manufacturer - Heinz Beans, and a fried egg and/or grated cheese if desired. Now, toasted bread and beans by themselves are surprisingly tasty and filling together, and you can find some good recipes and Beans on Toast lore at www.beansontoast.com and the UK Food Standards Agency website, but I decided to create Beans on Toast, Chicago Style:First, you'll need a covered medium non-stick frying pan. Cook your choice of meat (if you're using meat) until nicely browned and some of the fat is released. Remove meat and place on a covered dish to keep warm, and toast the bread slices in the same pan using the retained pan drippings.

[Look, I didn't say this was a diet dish...it says "Chicago Style" in the name!]

Place the toasted bread slices on two plates, two on each, slightly overlapping. If you're feeling fancy, cut the slices diagonally into Toast Points.

Now that the non-stick pan is relatively dry - since the toast has absorbed the meat juices - add one teaspoon of olive oil to the pan on medium heat. Crack the four eggs onto the pan, taking care not to break the yolks. Cook in sunny-side-up fashion to desired doneness, using the pan's cover to retain heat for the last few minutes. Divide the eggs into two sets of two, and remove them carefully to the covered plate holding the meat. Finally, empty the can of Heinz® beans into the saucepan, and heat up just to the simmering point.

Assemble your Beans on Toast as follows: divide the browned meat across the two plates of toast slices, then pour half of the heated beans over each serving. Top the beans with the eggs, and sprinkle pepper (and salt if you wish) lightly on top. If you're feeling extravagant, and you've recently received a clean bill of health from your physical, grate some cheese on top and place oven-proof dishes (you did use oven-proof dishes, didn't you?) briefly under a hot broiler until cheese melts.

Consume with a cuppa - or a pint of Guinness ale - in front of the telly while watching Red Dwarf, Monty Python's Flying Circus (or Ab Fab) with a good friend who doesn't mind bubble baths tomorrow. Cheerio!