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Serbian-Style Baked Beans


We love potlucks! It is the perfect way to get the extended family and friends together with minimal effort and cost. It is also the best time to share some of the old family “heirloom” recipes, letting the kids taste Great Grandma Minnie’s world’s best biscuits, passing the recipes and the stories that belong to them on. However… here is a true story. Don’t say we haven’t warned you!
Just one pot. And not so much luck.
Laurie has invited over some moms from her daughter’s school for a “get to know each other” potluck. It is getting dark outside, the candles are lit, the table is set and the entree we have made together is bubbling happily in the oven. But I have this niggling fear in the back of my head, so I ask Laurie what dishes the guests are bringing?
L: Side dishes.
K: Yes, but what kind of side dishes?
L: I don’t know, whatever they want, it will be great!
K: Hmm.
K: Remember that time at the Slow-food potluck dinner they told everyone to bring a dish from something in season and local, and they ended up with 240 dishes made out of cucumbers? THAT is what is going to happen. So I am going out into the dark to pick a big salad from your garden.
L: No, you are not! Why are you trying to undermine the whole concept of a pot luck. I think secretly you are a closet potluck hater. Is it because it makes you feel unnecessary? I promise you are necessary. They will bring fabulous dishes and we will have lots of leftovers tomorrow.
K: Yep, I am necessary, and that is why I am going out into the dark and picking a large salad for LUNCH tomorrow.
L: FINE! You’ll see. We’ll have the salad for lunch.
K: Of course we will.
The guests enter, zero side dishes, 7 bottles of wine.
Much later that evening. . . . 
L: Stop looking at me like that.
K: I am not looking, I am smirking, not looking.
There was no salad for lunch.

So please learn from our experience, be a little pushy, and sign those dishes up so you know what everyone is bringing, otherwise you will be left out in the dark picking a salad.

Next time you sign up to bring a side dish to a potluck (perhaps this weekend for a Memorial Day BBQ?) try this recipe for Serbian-style baked beans (Prebranac). Our dear friend Nina introduced us to this dish from her mom’s kitchen.

It is a deeply comforting pot of baked beans with layers of caramelized onions. Of course we added greens, because we add greens to everything. It is perfect for potlucks and no matter what everyone else brings, if you serve this with a salad and some grilled country bread, you will have a feast.  And this dish is even better if you make it the day before.

You need

1 pound of dried large white beans (lima or butter) 
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 pound yellow onions, sliced 
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tablespoon mild paprika 
1 bunch greens (kale, chard, turnip greens) finely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 cup roasted peppers, chopped (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

To make 6-8 servings

Rinse the beans in cold water and put them into a large pot, cover with 2 inches of water and the bay leaves. Very gently simmer the beans (a rolling boil will cause them to fall apart). Cook the beans until they are quite al dente and still holding their shape. Depending on the age and source of the beans this could be an hour or more. Remove any skins that may have floated to the top, drain the beans but keep the water. Season them with salt, pepper and vinegar.

Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil into a large pan and saute the onions over medium heat until they are soft, fragrant and starting to brown. This will take about 30 minutes. Add the paprika and garlic, stir for a moment, enjoy the fragrances, then add the kale and peppers. Saute until the kale has wilted, add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Layer the beans and onions in a nice ovenproof dish (if you have a clay pot one this is the time to use it). Pour in the reserved bean cooking water until the beans are just barely covered (you might need to supplement with tap water). Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, cover and pop into the oven. Bake until the beans are tender and have absorbed all the good flavors, about 45 minutes.

Cook’s tip

This dish can be served both hot or cold and depending on the amount of water you add, it can be served almost completely dry or more like a bean stew. Traditionally it was often made with smoked pork or sausages… so if you care to, by all means, brown some and throw them into the baking dish as well.



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2 Responses

  1. Emmaj325 says:

    Can’t wait to make these look’s so Yummy.. Ty, love ur site..

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