Clare’s Kitchen: Cooking beans from scratch - Food & Dining - TimesDispatch.com
Bean there, done it
Clare’s Kitchen: Cooking beans from scratch
ALEXA WELCH EDLUND
Bring the taste of New Orleans home by fixing a big batch of Red Beans and Rice.
Clare Osdene Schapiro
Special Correspondent | Updated 1 week ago
All it takes is the mere suggestion of a nip in the air and I’m back to my old tricks — dried bean adoration and obsession.
I think I know what you’re thinking, but really, what’s not to love? An inexpensive powerhouse of high protein, good nutrition and creamy, delectable taste is easily at hand. And with only a slight investment of time and assemblage of aromatics on your part, a bounteous feast for all is in sight.
Cooking beans from scratch seems to be wreathed in controversy, although I’m not entirely sure why. First of all, while I know that canned beans are readily available, they really aren’t worth using, if you ask me. Every time I’ve given in to their timesaving allure, I’ve been sadly disappointed with the result. Is it just me, or are they uniformly mushy with an unpleasant metallic undercurrent in their taste?
So, assuming I can talk you into taking the plunge, all sorts of beany adventures await you. First of all, there are the dried beans that must be pre-soaked (black, navy and kidney beans), and those (split peas and lentils) that can be rendered gloriously edible without the soaking.
I’ll save lentils and split peas for another day and just delve right into the pre-soaking issue. I am in the soak-overnight camp. This is easier for me as I’m given to planning and love the fantasy that I’m actually cooking while I’m sleeping. However, I know lots of people who swear by attacking them with their handy pressure cooker (which I have to admit scares the daylights out of me) and those who insist the quick-soak method is the way to go.
In that method, after rinsing and discarding any dubious individuals, you put the dried beans into a heavy-bottomed pot covered with a couple of inches of water. Bring it to a boil on the top of the stove, clamp on the lid and let them stand for two or three hours; then drain them and carry on with your recipe as though they’re pre-soaked. You get to choose the method that is right for you.
As to which dried beans to cook, that’s quite a question. For the beginner, I suggest you buy something available in your grocery or your local bulk bin — any place that has a pretty good turnover, so you’re not dealing with beans that have been sitting on the shelf too long.
The recipe I share here for baked beans with a bourbon-apple crust is a knockout for any Boston baked bean lover who likes a little Southern twist. In a perfect world, I’d have one of those nifty traditional bean pots in which to make them. However, since I don’t, they do very nicely in a heavy, covered casserole dish in which they spend multiple hours basking in the slow heat of my oven. And take it from me, there’s nothing better than a homebound Sunday afternoon with the house suffused with a rich molasses aroma. It will set your week off right.
Also here is my sister’s fabulous recipe for red beans and rice. This New Orleans-style dish traditionally was served on Mondays, using the leftover hambone from Sunday supper. The dish is a superstar served anytime to hungry people looking for a Creole feast. I’m fortunate to have pal Bill Norton in Charlottesville, renowned grill master, who’s been known to send hard-to-find tasso ham my way (or you can even make it yourself). Even sans tasso, it’s a stellar recipe that’s sure to please and is always a great option for a crowd.
I love and adore bean soup. In fact, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that my favorite soup growing up was a familiar red-and-white can of condensed bean with bacon. I’ve dallied with everything from U.S. Senate Navy bean to pasta e fagioli, and I have to say there’s a special place in my heart for dear, old black bean soup. This version sports Virginia country ham and cumin, and is enlivened by a goodly garnish of cilantro — for those who like it — and a dollop of limey sour cream. The result is a perfect amalgam of deep, rich beany taste, with a jazzy citrus zip.
I must warn you that these recipes might be just a little flirtation with bean love that might grow quickly and carry you away. I have dear friends who relentlessly tease me for annually sending off for heirloom Tarbais beans from France to make my favorite winter dish, a proper Gascon cassoulet. It is bursting with duck confit and garlic sausage along with those magical white gems.
And speaking of heirloom beans, truth be told, there’s a whole world of dried American varieties that are magnificent and just a click away. Watch out or before you know it, you might find yourself like me — soaking like mad and rustling up all manner of soups, stews and spreads — not to mention big ol’ pots of’em. Trust me: They’re addictive. Bean there, done it.
Baked Beans with Apple Bourbon Crust
A perfect Southern twist on the iconic Yankee favorite.
Makes 6 servings
1 pound navy beans
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup dark molasses
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 12-ounce bottle beer
12 ounces salt pork (in one chunk)
12 whole cloves
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
¼ cup bourbon
Beans: At least one day before serving the beans, pick them over for pebbles. Place them in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let soak overnight.
The next day, rinse and drain the beans. Place them in a pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered until the beans are barely tender and the skins begin to pop, about 45 minutes. Skim off and discard any foam that has developed. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place the cooked beans in a lidded 2-quart casserole dish. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, vinegar, molasses and dry mustard. Stir to mix well. Add the beer and enough of the reserved cooking liquid to cover the beans generously. Score the salt pork in a grid pattern with a sharp knife. Stick the whole cloves at random into the salt pork and bury it in the center of the beans.
Cover the casserole dish and bake 5 hours, giving the beans an occasional stir. Add more of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary to keep the beans just covered with liquid.
Crust: Uncover the beans. Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles (as if you were making an apple tart) over the top of the beans. In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, brown sugar and bourbon until smooth. Pour over the apple slices. Bake the beans uncovered for an additional 1 hour. Serve hot. (The beans also are excellent reheated in the days to follow.)
View line-by-line Nutrition Insights™: Discover which ingredients contribute the calories/sodium/etc.
|Serving Size: 1 Serving (323g)|
|Recipe Makes: 6 Servings|
|Calories from Fat: 107 (18%)|
|Amt Per Serving||% DV|
|Total Fat 11.8g||16 %|
|Saturated Fat 5.7g||28 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 2.7g|
|Polyunsanturated Fat 2.3g|
|Cholesterol 20.3mg||6 %|
|Sodium 110mg||4 %|
|Potassium 1623mg||43 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 106.1g||31 %|
|Dietary Fiber 25.2g||101 %|
|Sugars, other 81g|
|Protein 19g||27 %|
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Disclaimer: Nutrition facts are derived from linked ingredients (shown at left in colored bullets) and may or may not be complete. Always consult a licensed nutritionist or doctor if you have a nutrition-related medical condition.
Calories per serving: 595
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