Dried Beans

Once you taste dried beans in Europe, you realize that unless you have a special supplier, we get the old crop sent to us here. Or a mixture of old crop years, which is why when cooking dried beans, some become fully cooked while others need more cooking in the same batch.

I could never get my cooks to take the correct precautionary measures: use enough water to cover the beans by 4 inches at all times, and stir them while cooking every 15 minutes at least.

Use the newest crop of dried beans possible and wash them in cold water, removing any floaters or stones. And by all means, soak the beans to cut down on the cooking time, although this is not imperative. Parboiling them covered in 4 inches of cold water until the water boils is, however, and once you smell that first discarded water you will know why.

Cooking beans in poultry or meat stock will provide the richest taste, but it takes a lot, and water will do in a pinch if you use stock in the second cooking.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried beans, such as small white beans, flageolets, cannellini, or black turtle beans
  • 1 gallon poultry, ham, or meat stock (you need this much to keep replenishing the liquid)
  • 1 head fresh garlic, root removed, crushed
  • 1 ham bone or knuckle
  • 1 cup aromatic vegetable mix, wrapped in cheesecloth
  • 1 herb bundle
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Saltand freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the washed beans in a pot at least twice the size of the volume of the beans. Cover with cold water by 4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring the beans a couple of times. When the water boils, turn off the heat and let the beans sit uncovered for 15 minutes.

Pour the beans into a colander, run them under cold water to wash them completely, rinse out the pot, and put the beans back in it.

Pour in enough stock to cover the beans by 6 inches, and then add the head of crushed garlic, ham bone, vegetable mix, and herb bundle. Bring to a boil and simmer the beans for 30 to 60 minutes or until tender, skimming any foam or scum that rises to the surface and making sure the beans are covered by 4 inches of liquid at all times.

Drain (save the liquid for soups and sauces), discard all the ingredients except the beans, and toss the beans in the garlic and oil. Season and refrigerate until needed.

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