1. Get fresh beans.
2. Soak beans all day or overnight (you’re aiming for 8-12 hours), covered, in cool water that covers them by 2 to 3 inches. Unless your kitchen is very warm or it’s the thick of summer, you can do this at room temperature. (Otherwise, it’s a good idea to soak in the fridge.)
If you forgot to soak, beans that are on the smaller side only take two or so hours to cook from dry. You can also employ the “quick-soak” method: Cover beans with 2 to 3 inches of cool water, bring to a boil, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit for an hour.
Don’t toss your soaking liquid. Cook your beans right in it.
3. Salting from the start is the only way to get properly seasoned beans. In general, a good rule of thumb is one tablespoon of salt per pound of beans—if you’re soaking, add it then; if you’re not soaking, add it whenever you’re ready to cook.
You’ll also want a generous pour of extra-virgin olive oil. Start with ¼ cup oil per pound of beans.
Top off soaking liquid with enough cool tap water to keep the beans covered by 2 to 3 inches, then add the oil and the salt right to the pot.
4. Bring the flavor.
—Smashed garlic cloves and/or halved peeled onions (or shallots or scallions), plain or lightly charred first in the olive oil
—Spices and herbs: fennel, coriander, or cumin seeds; cinnamon sticks; bay leaves; smoked paprika; dried or fresh oregano; fresh parsley, rosemary, sage, or thyme
—Chiles: whole dried chiles (like chipotle, morita, or guajillo); ground chile powder; crushed red pepper flakes; a couple of canned chipotles en adobo sauce
—Aromatics: carrots, celery, fennel—leave them whole if you want to fish them out once the beans are tender, or finely chop and sauté them until tender in the olive oil before adding the dried beans.
—bacon or pancetta (dice, then cook until halfway crisp in the olive oil before adding dried beans); bones (smoked or otherwise); parmesan rinds; miso; kombu; instant dashi; a couple of strips of lemon peel
—What about things like canned or fresh tomatoes, wine, lemon juice? Acid will make your beans tough, so wait to add acidic ingredients until the beans are tender.
5. Cook the pot of beans (soaked or unsoaked, with olive oil, salt, and any seasonings plus 2 to 3 inches of liquid covering them) to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so that your beans are barely but steadily simmering and cover with the lid. The gentler the cooking, the better your beans will hold their shape and not burst out of their skins.
Whatever way you cook them, you’ll want to check in every half-hour or so, topping off the liquid as necessary so that the beans remain submerged. Stir very gently and very occasionally.
6. To know when they’re done, you’ll have to watch and taste. You should be able to nibble three in a row that are perfectly tender and delicious all the way through. This is a good time to adjust the seasoning: Taste the beans and the broth, and add more salt if you like. (Too salty? Thin the bean broth with a bit of water.) Once the beans are tender, feel free to jazz them up with acid.
7. When you've got the beans where you want 'em, fish out any whole aromatics, then cool and store your beans right in their liquid for the best flavor and texture (beans handled too much before they’re cool are prone to breaking or getting mushy). I like to leave them in the pot to cool, then divide the beans between containers and add bean broth to cover.
One pound of dried beans yields about 6 cups of cooked beans, plus broth.
8. Any leftover bean broth should go in additional containers. Bean broth is nearly as delicious as the beans. Use it to cook rice or potatoes or wherever you’d use vegetable or chicken stock.
Beans and their broth will keep in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Put the beans in a big bowl, cover them with water and refrigerate them overnight, then transfer them to a big pot for cooking. Bring to a boil, skim the scum, and add salt. Then lower to a simmer.
Add whole peeled garlic cloves and lots of good olive oil (inch oil on top to keep beans submerged). Add salt.
Can add an overripe tomato. Add herbs— mint, oregano too. Salt. If I add herbs I do it repeatedly, so there are long-cooked herbs and freshly dropped herbs at the end. Salt.
Heat up a dry small skillet over medium-high heat, and cook two lemon halves, cut side down, until the surface is charred, 3–4 minutes, then add to the pot. With salt.
Add coriander seed. Salt!
I cook the beans not even at a simmer and stir obsessively, gently. They'll be under-cooked and under-flavored for what seems like forever, until they're suddenly perfect.
Add more herb here, and final round of salt. A good glug of good vinegar too. I've been using sherry.
To serve, I am a firm believer of garlicky lemony loose aioli to stir in, and breadcrumbs too. Or at the very least some really great olive oil.
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