Thursday, January 31, 2013

Simple Beans

There are quite a few steps in making cassoulet. This week I have made confit of chicken, simmered a big pot of turkey stock, and braised some country pork ribs. Today I made a simple pot of beans, the backbone of a hearty cassoulet. Today was easy peasy.

Traditional cassoulet calls for French beans or Great Northern White beans. I am mixing it up a bit, staying French but adding Charleston charm with black eyed peas and black beans. See, I needed two pounds of beans. I had a pound and a half of black eyed peas and a half pound of black beans. With no interest in heading to the grocery store, my cassoulet is getting colorful. Cassoulet is not known for it's beauty. It's a rather boring brown mass but, ohhh what lies beneath that beautiful breadcrumb crust! So, I didn't feel to bad adding a few black beans that will discolor mix.

Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking uses both a quick method for black eyed peas (pour boiling water of the beans and soak 1 hour) and a long soaking method. I prefer the results of a long soak. I combined the flavoring methods of both the recipes in the book for this recipe, and tweaked a bit with the bay leaf.

The Good Luck Bean 
Beans are so simple. Sure, a can of beans is even simpler but why not go for it once in a while? It's not a bit difficult and the results will make you proud.

This is it.

(Makes a very large quantity that freezes beautifully!)

2 lbs, dried black eyed peas or a mix of black eyed peas a black beans
1 large onion, quartered
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 rashers of bacon or 1/4 lb hog jowl, roughly chopped (optional*)
1 dollop of Sriracha (I'd go a tablespoon, but just a touch will make a difference)
fresh cool water to soak and cook
salt & pepper

Place the dry beans on a tray and pick through, Beans can have "debris" such as small stones and grit so spreading them out make picking through a bit easier. Rinse in a colander and place in a container that will fit comfortably in your refrigerator. Cover the beans with cold water (go about 2 inches above) and store overnight. The beans will plump considerably. There is some debate over the need to long-soak black eyed peas. I prefer the texture of the beans that have plumped overnight, plus I think they look wonderful. If you forget, a quick method will do.

Drain your beans. Yes, there is debate over this step as well (beans are antagonistic). Folks say draining and starting with fresh water helps reduce the unwanted effects of eating beans, I believe them. I know their good for your heart and all, but I'm having guests. I drain very well and cover with fresh cool water (go about an inch above the beans). Add the onion, thyme, a bay, bacon or jowl (or ham hock!) and Sriracha. I don't salt until the beans are nice and soft. I have had the miserable experience of salting at the beginning and my beans never softening. So frustrating.

Bring the pot to a gentle boil, lower the heat to a slight burble. Taste test after 30 minutes. Depending on the bean's (beanses, in Hobbit speak) freshness of it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours of cooking time. There will be funky foam that rises to the top, just skim this off. You want a nice, creamy texture. Salt & pepper to taste. Allow to cool in their liquid. I serve the beans in their liquor. You can scoop out with a slotted spoon, or drain if you prefer.

*This makes a great vegan/vegetarian dish without the pork. I have heard using an all-natural liquid smoke product, like Lazy Kettle, yields a really yummy substitute for the bacon, jowl, or hock.

(Having some uploading issues. Don't have much beauty to show. Trust me, the beans are so good.)

Served some with a riff on a Chicago style dog. Don't get crazy. I said riff! We love the all-beef uncured hot dogs from Trader Joes. I split the big dog, added sliced tomato, sliced pickle, thinly sliced aged cheddar, a crisp rasher of bacon, a leaf or romaine and some brown mustard.  This was a great combo with the beans. Funny, my husband loves cassoulet and "upscale food", etc. but he was hounding me about posting the hot dog pic. He loved this easy meal. Please accept my apology for the pic. I am doing research on how to make them better. That is one seriously unflattering photo. Chin down, beans! To the left, hot dog! Suck it in pickle! Say, "cheese!", um, cheese.

Worst Pic Ever Taken

It's almost Friday. I am so excited to celebrate and eat a memorable meal with some memorable people. Oh, and there will be Chocolate Pecan Pie from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking for dessert. Sweet.



  1. Love me a Chicago Dog. And some beans. The last time I was in New Orleans, the best meal I had (seriously) was at this combination laundromat/dive bar in Faubourg Marigny (I think). Joint had one bartender who was about 30 months pregnant (we asked). One friend went off to play video poker, while me and my other buddy chatted her up. She had a pot of beans cooking behind the bar. No idea how she prepared them, but they were just done. So she offered us a bowl of beans and rice. Couldn't believe how tasty they were. Our other buddy came up with a Royal Flush in video poker and won a couple of hundred bucks. But we were the real winners. Beans.

    PS - Do you cook the pork before adding to the pot?

  2. I want beans at a bar in New Orleans!!

    I didn't cook the jowl ahead, just threw it in the pot. It gets so tender, I love it.