Cooking with dried beans requires minimal effort and begets peak results. Why haven’t I been using them all along?
Canned beans tend to be overly soft and bland, when compared to their recently re-hydrated counterparts. I’ve taken to incorporating canned beans into a dish only during the last few minutes of cooking, to maintain their texture. While it’s unlikely that I’ll ever banish the canned variety from my pantry, a dried bean is a terrible thing to ignore.
Setting a bowl of beans to soak overnight takes less time than brushing my teeth and every time I encounter a dish prepared with dried beans I’m blown away by the fine quality of their texture and flavor. Perhaps, I’ve failed to make dried beans part of my routine because dried bean recipes provide a dizzying array of suggested cooking techniques and applications.
What I needed was a go-to dried beans preparation. So when I came across a package of dried Anasazi beans (similar to pinto) gathering dust in the pantry, I decided it was time to make sense of cooking with dried beans to better both fare and welfare.
The Preferred Method
There are two primary methods suggested for preparing dried beans. The first is to soak dried beans overnight in cold water and salt. The second, known as “quick-soaking,” is a suggested short-cut to overnight brining (Cook’s), that calls for boiling the beans and allowing them to soak in the hot cooking liquid for about an hour.
Either way, the resulting beans are still a long way – about an hour and 8 cups of liquid – from edible, and they can’t be incorporated willy-nilly into recipes, like the versatile canned bean. Not ideal. But I found that using these two parallel methods in tandem produced creamy, al dente beans that can be substituted seamlessly into any recipe that calls for canned beans.
First, soak dried beans overnight in their cooking vessel. Your beans will jump-start the cooking process while you sleep (what could be easier than that!) and when it’s time to boil, you can go directly from refrigerator to stovetop. Next, bring the contents of the pot to a boil, and remove from heat. As with rice, a good steam makes for soft, plump beans. Drained, these just-cooked beans are ready to use, as called for, in any recipe that calls for canned beans.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, add 1 pound dried beans (any variety) to a solution of 8 cups water and 4 teaspoons salt and soak, refrigerated, for 8 hours or overnight. Transfer to stovetop and bring the contents of the pot to a boil over high heat; remove from heat and let stand, covered, 30 to 60 minutes, until beans are just al dente. Drain and use as instructed in any recipe for canned beans.
Make your beans super-flavored – Use one or all of these aromatics when boiling and hot soaking the beans: bay leaf; small, quartered onion; halved celery rib; or quartered carrot.
Store – Keep drained, rinsed beans refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 5 days.
A week’s worth of pintos – The possibilities are endless when it comes to incorporating cooked beans into meals!
MONDAY: Mash with cumin and oregano and serve warm in a burrito.
TUESDAY: Toss in a salad of chopped green peppers, corn kernels and red onions; dress with vinaigrette.
WEDNESDAY: Bake in a Dutch oven with ketchup, maple syrup and Worcestershire Sauce. Serve as side dish for BBQ.
THURSDAY: Add, along with broth, to sautéed onions, fresh chili peppers and garlic and simmer, breaking up some of the beans, until thickened. Serve over or alongside rice.
FRIDAY: Stir into your favorite chili during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
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