Drunken Beans

IMG_9092I know this might surprise some of you, but there are times when I do really stupid things. Sometimes those things are forgivable, like eating a bag of Famous Amos cookies and a Diet Coke for lunch, but sometimes I pull some really egregious shenanigans that embarrass even me (and I’m a guy known to order pig intestines in restaurants). My most recent bone-headed move was buying a growler of Josiah Moody’s fantastic Scotch Ale yesterday at Vino’s…and then just letting it sit. By the time I got around to cracking that bad boy open, a lot of the carbonation had escaped, and I was left with the knowledge that I had committed quite a sin against one of God’s gifts to mankind: beer. And not just any beer, but a beer that I’ve waited around to be brewed since last year, from my favorite brewery on the face of this great earth. Something had to be done, something that could live up to the quality of the beer I had so carelessly mistreated. There was but one answer: a big pot of drunken beans.

IMG_9089Michael’s Drunken Beans

  • 1 pound dry beans. Pick your favorites. I like red beans the most with barbecue, so that’s what you see here, but this technique works with pintos, black beans, or navy beans.
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Your favorite barbecue sauce. Make your own, or use a good bottled kind. I’m using a new (to me) brand called “My Uncle’s Sauce” that was given to me by a nice guy I met recently who is trying to open a food truck. It’s good stuff.
  • Beer. If you want to use cheap, horrible beer, that’s fine. A good amber ale works nicely with beans. And since I’ve got some half-flat Scotch Ale at my disposal tonight — I’m using that.

Don’t worry about soaking your beans overnight. Cover them without about an inch of water in a kettle and bring them to a boil on your stove top. When they’ve reached a boil, turn the heat off, cover, and let sit for an hour or two. During this time, cook your bacon. You can either cook the 1/2 pound I called for and retain the meat and fat, or you can admit you are a bacon fiend and cook an entire pound, eating half and leaving yourself with a second half pound for the beans. Up to you — I won’t tell anyone.

Rinse your beans in a colander, returning them to the kettle. Pour a bunch of beer into the beans. If you have enough to cover them, do that. I like to pour in enough to get right to the point of covering them and then add some chicken stock for extra flavor. Crumble up the half pound of bacon you didn’t eat and toss into the pot. Using some of the retained bacon fat, cook the onions until they become translucent and somebody from the next room says, “My GOD what are you making that smells so good?!” When that happens, add the garlic just to tease them and saute for three more minutes. Dump the whole lot — onions, garlic, and bacon fat into the pot. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Add liquid if needed — more beer, stock, or water.

Once your beans have gotten soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, add in as much of the barbecue sauce as you’d like, and adjust your salt and pepper to taste. Put the kettle into the oven and cook baked-bean style until the barbecue sauce has darkened and begun to caramelize. If you like sweeter beans, add a touch of brown sugar before baking. If you like hot, add your favorite hot sauce. Use your imagination. You’ll be left with a pan of beans flavored with the rich barley malt flavor of beer and brought to perfection by tangy barbecue sauce. Serve with cole slaw and barbecue chicken — or whatever floats your boat. Enjoy!

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White Bean and Kale Soup

Cold, wet weather is perfect weather for hearty soup – and there aren’t many soups out there that fit the bill better than this delicious soup made with two types of white beans and a generous amount of kale.  To a lot of folks, kale is just that ruffly green stuff put on the edge of a plate to add a bit of color, but this rich, earthy vegetable is the perfect addition to any number of soups and sauces.  In addition to being incredibly good for you, it’s also cheap, filling, and available at almost every local grocery store in Central Arkansas.  Like many greens, kale requires a bit of preparation to reach its full tastiness, but this is still a very quick soup to prepare.

White Bean and Kale Soup

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups kale, chopped
  • 5-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 can navy beans
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Parmesan rind (optional)
  • Shaved Parmesan for serving (optional)

In a large pot, sweat the onion and garlic on medium heat until the onions are opaque and beginning to turn golden brown.  Add the chopped kale and the vinegar and toss well.  Saute the kale until it softens and takes on a very deep green color, about five minutes.  Add 3 cups of the chicken stock, 1/2 can of the navy and cannellini beans, the can of tomatoes, the carrots, the Parmesan rind, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes (or until the carrots begin to soften nicely).  While the soup simmers, put the retained beans and stock into a blender and puree.  Add this puree to the soup, stirring well, and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Be sure to serve with crusty bread – you’ll want it to soak up every last drop.  Enjoy!

Black Beans with Lime Rice and Fried Plantains

For us, cold weather is bean weather, and we like the rich, warm feeling that this filling food provides on a chilly day.  Our last post covered a Southern classic, red beans and rice, but sometimes we like to branch out and cook beans a different way – which is to say we sometimes like to forgo all the sausage, ham, and other pork products that are generally found in Southern bean dishes.  This bean dish is completely vegetarian, but it’s still just as full of good, savory flavor as any bean dish you’ll come across.  We adapted this dish from several different Cuban-style black bean dishes we read, and it’s probably the bean dish I make most often.  The recipe here calls for dried beans, but this is almost as good using canned – and a lot quicker.  We’re serving it with lime rice and some crispy fried green plantains, but it also make a nice topping for nachos or filling for burritos.  Get creative!

Black Beans

  • 1 pound dry black beans (or two cans canned)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 Anaheim chile peppers, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

Soak the beans overnight.  If you’ve got really hard water, or like really soft beans, you can add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water – baking soda will raise the pH of the water which softens the beans.  When ready to cook, rinse your beans and add fresh water back to them, covering the top level of beans by about two inches.  Bring your beans to a boil, then simmer until they get good and tender.  It’s important that the beans be good and tender before you add any of the other ingredients; tomato paste and vinegar are both acidic (which lowers pH), and adding acidic ingredients too soon will result in beans that don’t ever get as soft as you might like them to be.  Once your beans have gotten tender, mash about a quarter of them up and stir well.  Saute the peppers, onion, and garlic until soft, then add them to the pot along with the tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper, and cumin.  Salt to taste.  Simmer until the beans are very tender and falling apart.  Taste often so you can adjust the salt and spice if needed!

For the lime rice, boil your brown or white rice as you normally would, but add the juice of of half a lime and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander per cup of dry rice used.  This is a great compliment to these spicy beans!  We also enjoy some crispy, starchy fried plantains with this dish, which are very easy to make (see below).

Fried Green Plantains (Tostones)

  • 1-2 green plantains, cut into circular sections
  • oil for frying

The method here is to blanch the plantains in hot oil for 1-2 minutes per side (they’ll start to show a little color), then remove them to some paper towels for a thorough drain.  After they’ve drained, take the bottom of a glass and smash the plantains into thin disks, then put them back in the hot oil for another 2-4 minutes, or until they’re crisp and golden brown.  Sprinkle the crisps lightly with sea salt.  These are also great for dipping, and taste like a cross between a mild flavored banana chip and a potato chip (but better than both).

Beans are probably the best way that there is to eat healthy and cheaply – they’re really a perfect food as far as getting good nutrition and a bang for your buck.  We hope you’ll make them a part of your weekly meal plans – they’re certainly a delicious addition.  Enjoy!