My Bean Manifesto
How to make the—well, *my*—perfect pot of brothy beans.
There is nothing I love to cook more than a pot of beans, and no preparation I’ve thought so much about. I have written before of my love for puttering, for dishes that allow me to wander into the kitchen every 5 to 20 minutes, poke at some stuff bobbing around in a pot, taste and adjust, then wander off. Beans represent the confluence of all my culinary preferences: they are dirt cheap to make, they adapt to the changing tides of the pantry; they require more tending than actual labor; they are delicious; they are a surprising pleasure to feed to company; they can twist themselves into countless permutations of leftovers; and they freeze beautifully. Having a bag of dried beans on a shelf and a pint of brothy beans in the freezer means there will always be dinner.
Over the past decade of fiendish bean cooking, my preferences have evolved. There was a phase when I cooked chopped vegetables in oil before adding my soaked beans to the pan, turning the final pot into something more plainly soupy; now I prefer a purer broth, and no chopping. Less labor, more puttering! This is what I want for all of us. I’ve also since learned the life-changing step of adding acid at the final hour, and have developed my own instincts for the crucial process of salting, which one learns to do, bumbling and solitary, like one learns to pray.
I am currently coming off my second round of Covid (far easier than the first!) which means I made a pot of beans last week.1 They are a great comfort to me, not just to eat but also to cook. They are an activity as much as a meal. Like the grits in My Cousin Vinny, they do not allow for an “instant” option. Anyways, I thought this would be a good time to share my bean methodology. I know summer isn’t exactly a time when most people want a hot bowl of broth, but it’s been drizzly in New York this week (bean weather), and I got a pound of speckled dried beans in my CSA last week (seasonal), and some of us are sick.
Beans à la Marian
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