There are so many ways of thinking about cooking.
Our instinct with beans would be to add all kinds of flavors. Maybe vegetables and meats plus stock. Then let them all mingle together and make something much greater than the individual parts. For some things, this probably works. Actually, it might be a fine way of cooking. For me, after watching and learning from Georgeanne Brennan, often it’s better to use the best ingredients, cook them well, and apart, and then gently compose your final dish. The flavors are less muddy. The overall effect is brighter and sharper.
The new crop of Good Mother Stallard beans came in. I have loved this bean but it’s low yield means that I also dislike it. We sell out and then we’re done for the season. Sometimes the harvest is fair, most times it’s not.
I cooked the new crop with just water and a bay leaf. I kept telling myself that my memory was off and that it’s very good but not worth all the heartache. As I cooked them, I noticed and almost burnt smell coming from the pot. See! These really aren’t that great. As they started to soften, I added salt and waited for them to be done so I could declare them fine but not worth all the fuss.
Well, I was wrong. They were perfect. Dense, earthy and almost indulgent-tasting. Dang. I love them. But I love beans and whether it’s Good Mother Stallards or Pintos, I really love cooking them simply and then deciding what to do with them. If you’re using heirlooms, there’s no risk. If they’re commodity beans from a slow grocery store, you may want to cook them with stock and meat and lots of olive oil.
The next day I cubed up some smoked ham from The Fatted Calf. The beans tasted like beans and the ham tasted like smoky ham. The parsley tasted like fresh. This wouldn’t have been better if it all had been cooked together. In fact, I think it would have been muddy and heavy. When I have white beans, I also love them plain but then I like to drizzle an intense herb-infused olive oil over them. The beans and the oil could have been cooked together but I don’t believe they would have been better. Sometimes we behave better on a date with a new stranger than we do with someone we’ve been married to for years. Oops. I am revealing too much.
These are some half-baked thoughts that entered my mind as I enjoyed this really incredible bowl of beans.
Order Good Mother Stallard beans at Rancho Gordo now. (Warning: they are very seasonal and may only be available late Fall through early Spring.)