Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Cook Beans

A basic method, but I do this a lot in our kitchen, so definitely worth knowing!  I'll give the most basic method (quick and slow versions) and you can fancy it up however you please.

I am using dried onions and dried garlic here- in my experience, these work better than fresh.  The end result is sweeter and more married.


2 cups dried beans (1 pound)
 about 1 Tbsp baking soda
bay leaves
dried onions
dried garlic

Serves four

Pour dried beans into a large pot and cover with cool water- swish them around with your hand to clean any dust or debris off.  (I've never found any, but it's not uncommon to find small sticks or stones.)  Use your hand to scoop out any beans that float, or anything else that shouldn't be there.  Drain off the water, and cover again, so when you stick your pointer finger on top of the beans, the water comes up to your second knuckle.  Add a shake or two of baking soda.

For a quick soak, put the pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Watch it, because it will foam up quite a bit (because of the baking soda.)  Let cook 2 or 3 minutes, remove from heat, and drain and rinse. This will give you a fine pot of beans, but they will not be pretty.  The skins might come off, and the beans might lose their shape during cooking.

For a slow soak, leave the pot of beans on the counter overnight.  You might need to add more water, if they soak it all up.  Drain and rinse.

On the stovetop: Fill pot with water again, two finger knuckles above the beans.  Add 1 tsp salt per pound of beans.  Add flavorings- for pinto beans, since they're served straight from the pot, I like a tablespoon or two of dried onions, some good shakes of granulated garlic, 2 or 3 dried bay leaves, and a teaspoon of black pepper if I want it spicy.  If I'm doing black beans or white beans, I often stop with just salt, since the beans are normally made into something else later.  Bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer- let cook until tender, 2 to 3 hours depending on how hard they're simmering.  They keep just fine on the stove, so you can get these done in the afternoon, and keep them warm till dinner.

In the crockpot, add beans and seasonings as listed above, and cook on low for 6 or 7 hours (for best results) or high for 4 or 5 hours.

I like to serve beans over rice, plain or sauteed with oil, garlic, onions, salt, and pepper before cooking.  I set out sour cream, shredded cheese, all the types of hot sauce I can find, and chopped onions.

Cooked beans can be portioned out and frozen for later.

This is my favorite recipe for black beans: Chipotle Black Bean Chili.  Amazing with sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice.