11 December 2011

Beans! Getcher Beans Here!

(Photograph copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

Well, here I am again, talking about food. I cook a lot, but I'm no chef.  I just like cooking. There's almost nothing I like more than to feed people. I let The Boy take care of the wine, but the dinner ends up being my job. And I love it. I'm doing a small dinner party next week, and I'm pondering the menu for that. I'm thinking a roasted pork rack or maybe some braised pork chops. Both are easy so I can concentrate on the sides.

Feel free to make suggestions, but be warned - I'm going grocery shopping for this on Thursday so I have to decide by then.

That's not what I'm writing about today, though. The day before yesterday, I remembered a magazine article that I saw years ago. It described in detail how to make non-gassy beans. Seriously - fart free beans? Who could resist, right?

I planned this, but I don't have a recipe. There were a couple of nice smoked pork hocks in the freezer, which to my mind is the only kind of meat I'd put in that dish. They taste amazing with the side benefit that they're cheap, too. I also added some double-smoked pork belly that I got a Gene's Meat Market in Lincoln Square. Love that place. When you need pork, that's the ne plus ultra in this town.

Other than that, it's pretty standard. I use canned whole tomatoes, a couple of chopped onions, three or four smashed cloves of garlic, pepper, some Worcestershire Sauce, maple syrup (instead of brown sugar, it tastes a little lighter), stock, and dry mustard. Everyone has their own variations and they all taste good. One large and crucial thing is to NEVER add salt until you're about half an hour or so away from serving. If there's a chance that the liquid will reduce when you're cooking, leave the salt until the end.

The magazine article didn't focus on the exact recipe, though. The key is in the way the beans are prepared long before they go in the oven. Here we go:

1. Soak the beans overnight in water twice as deep as the beans.

2. In the morning, drain and rinse the soaked beans, fill a pot with the beans and water and boil them hard for one full hour. Whatever you do, do NOT boil the beans in the water you used for soaking them. There's nothing in that pot except beans and water. NO salt. No nothing. At this point, salt will only make the beans tough.

3. After boiling, drain the beans and rinse them again. You must not skip this step. The water that the beans have been boiled in will be nasty-looking and brown and there will be a sort of foamy scurf on the top. You have to get rid of ALL of this, and you have to rinse your beans.

4. Now at this point, you get things together. My favorite way to do this is to put all of the ingredients into either a heavy pot or the slow cooker, then dump the beans on top, mix and cook for six to eight hours. In a slow cooker, the setting should be on "simmer", in the oven set the temperature to 225 or so.

5. You can't just ignore them. Every couple of hours or so, check on them, give them a stir and add liquid. Remember that the beans haven't expanded completely at the beginning, so you have to make sure they don't get dry while they're cooking.

That's all there is. Of course, the de-farting happens in steps 1 to 3. Those steps break down the cellulose in the beans so that they're more digestible. You will rinse away some of the starches and so on, but that's what you want.

I promise you that if you follow the first three steps EXACTLY you shouldn't have a problem after dinner. If you're concerned that it won't work, take a couple of Beano tablets before you eat as a kind of insurance. You shouldn't need to, though.