Beans are Magical! A Guide to Cooking Dried Beans
We love canned beans as much as the next person. They’re quick, easy and can help you get dinner on the table in twenty minutes or less. BUT, the beautiful dried bean can be the star of your weeknight dinner. The only caveat being that you do need to plan ahead. Come on, we’re all adults here, we know how to make plans...
There are only two hard rules we live by when it comes to cooking beans…
- SOAK. YOUR. BEANS. We know it’s hard. We know that after a looooong day the last thing you want to think about is the dinner you’re going to make the next night. But think about the future you, and that you is eating beans, you will thank yourself. It helps soften them up, cook more evenly, and cut down on cooking time (meaning getting them on the table faster.) Soak beans in twice as much water by volume as the quantity of beans. Be on the lookout for any rocks or twigs that may have ended up in the bag. The next day, strain beans from soaking liquid and place in fresh water before cooking.
- Low and slow. The ideal temperature to cook your beans is at a mild simmer. A bubble here and there is best. The agitation from boiling water will cause the skins to break and the flesh to burst open, ultimately leaving you with broken beans and cloudy pot liquor (that delicious bean broth.)
Aside from that, the options are endless! You can use stock instead of water to pump up the flavor exponentially. Throw in some trimmings from any smoked or cured meats (i.e. bacon, guanciale, pancetta, chorizo). A slew of aromatics like thyme, rosemary, onion and garlic add meat-free complexity. Bay leaf is a particular favorite for the depth it adds to the liquor. And if you have absolutely nothing else to throw in the pot but beans, water and salt, don’t be discouraged, they will still taste delicious! It will take about 2-3 hours for the beans to finish cooking and come into their ultimate creaminess. Best way to check if they’re done is by biting into one. They should be creamy but not be falling apart. Finishing with a generous pour of some fruity extra virgin olive oil is an easy way to add another layer of flavor to that pot of beans. Cool the beans in their liquor and keep them in there when storing. They’ll taste even better after 2-3 days from absorbing all the flavor from the olive oil and aromatics.
Now, what to do with all that bean liquor you ask? Use it like you would any other stock: As a soup base, braising liquid, or sip it warm as a breakfast brodo!