It’s winter, and beans are something I consider a winter food. If you look back through this blog, you’ll see that’s when I make massive pots of pea soup, experiment with cassoulet recipes, and so on.
The one thing I disliked about the cassoulets I made was the use of Great Northern beans. These are the beans that give Boston baked beans its flavour, and it’s a flavour I associate so strongly with that dish that, to me, cassoulet made with them tasted… American, and not French. OK, that’s a little weird, but that’s the way I’m wired.
I’d been trying to find cannellini beans, and hadn’t had any luck finding any dry ones (found canned ones). Then someone on Twitter enlightened me: they’re usually called white kidney beans over here. Ah. Back to the St. Lawrence market for dry white kidney beans. And Romano beans. Just for the heck of it. To compare the flavour of the two. I got the kidney beans at Rube’s and the Romanos at Domino’s. Prices are lower at Domino’s.
Last night I put 8oz (weight) of each on to soak. This morning I drained them and put them in fresh water with a chicken bouillon cube, and boiled until soft. I could have stopped the process earlier than I did if I wanted firm beans; they were starting to split and peel when I drained them.
The shrivelled skins of the kidney beans rehydrated while being boiled, and were very thin, and almost nonexistent. The skins on the romano beans are thicker, but not obnoxiously so. I tried some of them plain. The white beans have a very mild flavour, and I’ll use them in dishes where I want one (or several) of the other ingredients to dominate. The romanos (on the right) have a stronger flavour, slightly meatier tasting. Not as strong a flavour as, say, chickpeas, but a very pleasant taste that I’m immediately imagining with bacon and mushrooms.
Next, I drizzled a little white truffle oil on some of each. I love white truffle oil. It was most apparent in the white beans, although still strongly present in the Romanos. I think that if I want to recreate the white bean ‘soufflée’ that Sandy and Betty and I had in Anghiari, I’ll use the white kidney beans.
I put the rest of the cooked beans in the fridge in sealed tubs, so I can add a handful to dishes as I cook.
Tonight for dinner I mixed some of the romanos with some frozen rapini, added some chicken stock, and heated it up, then added a boneless skinless chicken thigh on top. It was a good combination.
I suppose Rich set me off this week by asking what sort of slow cooker recipes I’d make with beans. I responded:
You can go the Moroccan route, in terms of spices; use strong cuts of meat, like goat, older lamb, stewing hen (T&T sells those) and treat the slow cooker like a tagine. Appropriate beans: chick peas, fava beans.
Or pea soup — I made a huge batch of that in my slow cooker last week. I used a smoked turkey thigh (the brand is Brandt) — bought it at the cheap food place across Leslie from Loblaw’s — Loblaw’s didn’t have any, got a song-and-dance from them about how they might be stocking them in the future, yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s lower fat than smoked ham hocks.
Venison’s really good in the slow cooker with lots of members of the allium family and other root veggies: toss a few juniper berries in the pot along with a splash of red wine, bay leaf, salt & pepper.
Lentils scream Indian food to me, so I’ve got plans to use them along with tomatoes, curry spices, onion and carrots and chicken thighs.
I made onion soup a few weeks ago. I didn’t chop the onions, just ran them all through the mandoline, so they were like thin noodles. Made for messy eating. I’ll chop them next time.
Stewed oxtail would be good — it’s usually made with potatoes, but a mild-flavoured bean would be a good substitute, or a whole-grain rice and a handful of red kidney beans. You might want to spice it up like a Jamaican roti.
There’s a few ideas!
I don’t put a lot of greens into my crock pot — I cook them separately so they’re not stewed and drained of color (which happens after a long time).
Wikipedia describes why some types of beans need to be soaked for at least 5 hours and boiled at 100C for 10 minutes before cooking in a slow cooker: they contain a toxic compound, phytohaemagglutinin, that can be leached out. It can also be boiled out, but if you’ve got a slow cooker on a low setting, the temperature might not be high enough to degrade the toxin (and may make it stronger).