Log Cabin Chronicles

greg duncan

© 1998 John Mahoney

The Gallivanting Gourmand

Not all partridges are in pear trees


Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction.

A reader in the Laurentians found this true recently while agonizing over a missing ingredient for a pot of baked beans.

This story rivals any I've heard in my two years of food writing. It involves a bird, some beans, and a plate-glass window. I suspect the luck of the Irish may have played a part considering this family's heritage.

It seems that every year around hunting season, tradition has been that Judy Asbil sends off a pot of baked beans with husband (and hunter) Hank to share with his hunting buddies at lunch after a morning of tramping through the woods. Big men, big appetites require something as hearty as beans.

Somehow over the years, however, it became customary to add a partridge breast to the pot which Hank usually hunted prior to the arrival of deer season. This year, though, the recipe was lacking in the partridge department, so when Hank asked Judy to make the beans, he said, "I guess I'd better start looking for a partridge."

Suddenly, they both heard an enormous crash in the living room. While it is not uncommon for an occasional small bird to fly into their plate-glass window, the crash was too loud to have been a bird, they thought. Expecting to find a cracked window, an inspection outside the window revealed instead - you guessed it - a dead partridge!

The bird had indeed crashed into the window in what can only be described as a strange coincidence. Is it possible this partridge was offering its breast for the pot in some sort of spiritual suicide mission? Either way, if it were not for the fact that I know these people, I would say they were full of beans. Why don't you try this recipe at home. If you are missing the partridge breast, substitute a chicken breast; it will do fine. And hold the window, if you like.

Baked Beans with Partridge (or Chicken)

1 small pkg. beans (2 cups)
1/3 c. molasses
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 lb. salt pork
3 small onions
1 breast of partridge (or chicken breast)

Rinse beans. Cover with water and soak 8 hours (all night or all day). Bring to a boil and simmer about 15 minutes, skimming off foam. Drain and keep water.

Meanwhile, boil pork about 10 minutes. Rinse and slice. Combine dry ingredients and molasses. Add some (maybe half) of the bean water.

Place half of the pork and partridge breast on bottom of bean pot or casserole. Add beans, onions, and rest of salt pork on top. Pour liquid over till beans are covered by about 1/2 inch.

Keep liquid in case you need to add more.

Bake at 250 for about 8 hours. (Try bean to see if they're soft.) Remove cover during last hour to brown beans.

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Copyright © 1998 Greg Duncan/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.98