Monday, March 9, 2009
I'll be honest, until recently what I knew about beans didn't amount to a hill of them.
After hearing about how organic heirloom beans were supposedly the next big food trend (which still sounds silly to me, heirloom beans, though I'm not sure why, probably because I've been trained through life that beans are routine and humdrum) I figured I would try cooking some for once. Now, I'm a big proponent of canned beans since I think they taste fine and they're ready at hand so I this was new territory for me. However, I foresaw few troubles in cooking a small batch of legumes over the stove.
I went to whole foods and picked up some pink beans. Pink beans because, well, they're pink. There isn't a lot of pink food. They seemed exotic yet still slightly mundane in their petit pink pile. I went home and talked to my roommate, Candace, about them as I went about measuring some of them out for the night's dinner.
"Yeah, why?" I asked passively, not really expecting a logical answer due to the fact that the beans were just beans.
"Yeeeeeah, you're going to want to soak those for about four hours at least," she said flatly. I could hear the dry smile turning upward from the living room.
"Zuh? Explain." I demanded.
"They have to soften up. Then you have to simmer them for at least two more hours," she walked into the kitchen, "after that you can eat them. Beans take a long time, but trust me they're way better fresh than from a can. They just take some planning ahead and some time."
I was crushed, I wanted to cook them right then and there. So no beans were had that night. I let them soak until the morning, and then cooked them for lunch the next day, simmering them slow and long as she had instructed. I was impatient, I wondered if it would be worth the work. If they turned out like canned beans, so be it. I would learn something anyways.
The result? The most delicious beans ever. They had simmered in salty water with a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. After draining them I mixed them with a tablespoon of bacon grease and a smatter of kosher salt and ground pepper. The bacon grease gave them a slick, slightly meaty flavor that really gave them some nice compliment with the earthy but light flavors of the beans. The flavor was full, resounding with the minty hint of bay and pepper at the back. Fantastic.
And I learned something I always knew: beans are so cheap! How could I have gone this long without discovering the frugal and tasty glory of freshly cooked beans!? Pink to save green. Indeed, I plan to go back to the store shortly to fill my pantry.
1 cup of beans
tablespoon of bacon fat
Soak the beans in cold water for 4-8 hours. Drain. Cover in fresh cold water, two inches over the beans. Toss out any floaters. Add a good amount of salt (a couple tablespoons), a bay leaf, and some peppercorns. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered, for two hours or until soft. Drain and add the bacon fat and some salt and pepper. Stir and serve.