While pie has been one of my major loves lately, I have an older, deeper love that we have never discussed, though you may not be surprised.
People, I love beans.
All kinds of beans, white beans, black beans, lentils, garbanzos, edamame, pintos. You name a bean, I probably love it.
Growing up, beans were always cooked one specific way. At night, we would rinse and sort them, building up a collection of ugly reject beans by the side of the kitchen sink, then put them in the slow cooker and cover them with water to soak overnight. In the morning, someone would turn them on when we left the house, and by the evening they would be tender and perfect, ready for a heap of shredded cheese and salsa. Or to be drained and refried in a cast-iron pan with a scoop of lard. (Oh, food nostalgia – Now I have a serious craving for a bowl of pintos and salsa!)
This method is foolproof. I was probably 9 or 10 when it was something that I could be trusted to do, because that was when I was big enough to do all the steps involved. The drawback of this method, though, is that it requires planning. Planning is something my mom is good at; me, not always so much.
Luckily, a couple years ago I discovered the best ever method for cooking beans. Alright, maybe not the best ever, but a fast and reliable method that does not require the pressure cooker. Hurray! Also, it’s super easy!
Get some beans! I usually cook a pound at a time, because I really like beans. If you want less, that’s fine. Rinse and sort them, picking out any blemished or irregular specimens, and any non-bean matter you may find among them.
Next, find an oven safe pot with a tight-fitting lid. Really, make sure it’s oven safe. If the lid isn’t super tight, you can place a piece of aluminum foil between to lid and the pan to minimize moisture loss.
Put your beans in the pan, and add cold water until it covers them by about an inch. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Put the covered pan on a burner on the stove, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, put the pan in the oven, set a timer for 45 minutes, and get on with your life. At 45 minutes, check the water level and the tenderness of your beans. For larger or dryer beans, they probably won’t be anywhere near done, but littler or fresher beans may. Add more water if necessary, then return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes or so, until the beans are tender.
That’s right, there’s no soaking. Boil them, braise them, enjoy them. Easy as can be.
This method does not result in the same uniformly tender beans that the slow-cooker method does, but there is a simple remedy to that. Soak the beans. I know, I just said “No Soaking,” but that’s the speedy method. If you have the wherewithal to actually plan ahead, since the beans in the morning, let the soak during the day, then cook them as described in the evening. Still super easy, and faster than the slow cooker method.
This is a minimalist method, but it’s really adaptable. One of our favorite things to do is to cook white beans using this method with leftover pho broth as the liquid. We also add spices and garlic to the cooking liquid, but never salt. Salt your beans at the end, people! It’s the only way!