July 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

Simply the Best

Baked beans, brisket top off a great holiday weekend

Smoky baked beans will disappear fast at your next barbecue. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)

The extra long holiday weekend inspired me in so many ways. We spent a few days with old friends in Ohio then returned to a quiet neighborhood where everyone had seemingly left town. Not that I don’t love my neighbors, but it was blissful. I gardened, we grilled out on the deck, read and slept in. By Sunday I was getting antsy, and that’s when I decided to haul out the little-used but much-mentioned smoker and try my hand at smoking a beef brisket.

The smoker came from my daughter and son-in-law, the brisket was from Costco and the recipe from “Smoke: New Firewood Cooking” by Tim Byres, which I found on the Epicurious website, epicurious.com/ recipes/food/views/BBQ-Beef-Brisket -51171820. I used the beef coffee cure that was recommended and let the beef sit overnight in the fridge.

The smell of the smoker all day long was mouthwatering as I transplanted flowers and pulled weeds, then I realized I didn’t have anything planned for a side dish. That’s when I remembered the baked beans that my mother used to throw together at the last minute that became a family favorite. Instead of opening a can of baked beans and doctoring them, she used Great Northern beans and spiked them with whatever she had available (sans ketchup), along with some crispy, crumbled bacon.

I channeled my mother for this dish and created a side dish so wonderful that not only did it outshine the beef, but we’d consumed most of the dish when I realized I needed a photo to document the recipe. What you see here is what I salvaged before my husband could finish off the last few bites. Good thing I remembered everything I put into it, but honestly, I could have used less of one thing and more of another and I think it still would be stellar.

Smoky Baked Beans

Recipe from Kate Lawson

3 thick slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute bacon until just crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat and add onion to skillet; cook until soft. In a bowl, combine beans with onion and everything else except the bacon and put in baking dish. Sprinkle bacon on top. Bake covered for 45 minutes. Serves 4.

Per serving: 264 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 14 percent calories from fat); 51 g carbohydrates; 14 g sugar; 7 mg cholesterol; 1,562 mg sodium; 12 g protein; 9 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com