Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bean Specifics

A couple of people were interested in having some specifics on the method for oven baking beans. They really are delicious with a great texture, so I'll share the yumminess with you all. Just as a little note before we start: I had read that this baking method would also eliminate the flatulence problem. I won't get into specifics, but don't believe a word of that...

First, aside from the obvious part of needing an oven (though, I've seen many crockpot bean recipes online, and they may be great, too), you'll also need a dutch oven or some other oven-proof pot with a lid. Make it a pretty large one, because the recipe makes enough beans for about 10-12 servings.


2 lbs (about 1 kilo) beans (black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans - whatever you want to experiment with, really - but black beans are my favorite if you can find them).
1 onion
1 clove garlic
ham hock or part of one (optional - I didn't have one the other day and it turned out delicious with a chicken bouillon cube instead. You could also try vegetarian style with nothing. It'll still be tasty).
1 tsp whole cumin seeds (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to low temp (mine is a gas oven that's very hard to control, so my temp was higher than the 175-200F that would normally be used - it still worked fine). Rinse beans. Now, start by chopping up and sauteeing the onion in oil or some other fat (a real Mexican dish would most likely use pork lard, while I often use canola). Allow to soften. Add garlic and cumin seeds. Sautee a minute more. Remove from heat. Add rinsed beans and ham hock, if using, as well as a bit of salt. Cover with water and place in oven. Go about your business checking it from time to time and stirring when the mood strikes you. Add more water if you see that it is getting dry on top. Allow to continue to cook till the beans are cooked and have a thick liquid around them. This could easily take up to 10 hours (but with my gas oven, it was more like 6 to 7).

Add more salt and pepper and serve with rice or in a large tortilla for bean burritos. It was a real hit with our kids served with broken up tortilla chips in it. My husband and I added freshly chopped green onions (scallions to some) and some tomatoes (since tomatoes aren't in season, we used a couple of stewed canned ones I chopped up - couldn't really tell the difference in the beans). I also like to serve them over some freshly baked cornbread. I think it might be good with some cheddar or maybe some Mexican cheese in it, too, but they don't sell those here, so I wouldn't know. Some fresh tomato salsa would be nice, too. We just didn't have any.

Other variations you might try are adding a can of chopped tomatoes (or some whole tomatoes fresh or canned chopped up by you - cheaper, most likely) to the cooking beans. You could also play around with the spices used. Replace the cumin with herbes de Provence or some thyme, or whatever sounds good. Here, they use large white beans (cannelini or whatever they're called - maybe great northern?) cooked in tomatoes that's very good. The herbes de Provence would go well in that. You could also replace the ham hock with chunks of chopped up ham. Adding sauteed leeks and ham to the tomato-baked white beans is very tasty in my experience.

Basically, this is a simple way of cooking beans, if you've got the time to be around for them. It turns out very well, and can be varied in so many ways to make a cheap, interesting dinner (even if it is a bit rugged or rustic sort of meal to me). This is pretty much comfort food to me. I don't even know why, because we ate very few beans when I was a kid. I hated them till I was pregnant with my first kid. There's just something about the texture and the way that they fill you that I find comforting, I guess. Good stuff.