Archived in 2022

Originally posted on 20 Mar 2008

By now any regular reader of FirstStep knows that I like beans. They’re just so darn useful and tasty besides.

So, sure, you can make thousands of different things with beans. I gotta admit though that more often than not I end up falling back on one basic recipe just because it’s so easy and I don’t often have much time to think about such things. It doesn’t much matter the type of bean or meat involved here. All you need is a dutch oven (about 5.5 qt) and an afternoon spent putzing about the house.

1-2 Tbl fat (EVOO, schmaltz, canola oil, bacon fat, etc)
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
cloves of garlic to taste
2-ish lbs cheap but tasty meat (pork ribs, lamb shanks, chicken thighs, etc.)
1 lb quality dried beans (cannelini, flageolet, pinto, black, whatever)
some sprigs of thyme
some bay leaves
liquid to cover (stock, beer, water, a combination of same; nothing with too much acid)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to about 325 degrees
  2. Add a Tbl or so of fat to the dutch oven and heat it
  3. Brown the meat and remove to a dish
  4. Sautee the veggies in the reserved fat until soft (add more fat if needed)
  5. Add the beans and mix with the veggies
  6. Nestle the meat down into the beans and tuck the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves into the mix
  7. Add liquid to cover
  8. Bring to a simmer
  9. Slap a top on it and put it in the oven for at least two hours and up to five-ish, stirring once or twice, at least until the beans are done or until you feel like eating, whichever comes last
  10. Remove the bones, fat and other icky parts of the meat as well as the thyme stems and the bay leaves
  11. Chop the meat and stir into the beans
  12. Season to taste with salt and pepper

The only way I’ve ever screwed this up is by adding too much salt. Other than that the sky’s the limit. Use whatever you have on hand and it’s bound to be tasty. Something I haven’t tried yet but intend to is to include diced red bell pepper with the veggies. Depending on the meat and beans used I will sometimes add chopped fresh herbs at the end. This past weekend I used lamb shanks and mixed in chopped marjoram and am very very pleased with the results.

This makes quite a bit of food. I easily get eight to ten servings out of a single recipe which keeps me well-stocked with tasty lunches and dinners for a week or more. Pork spare ribs are my favorite meat for this application but lamb shanks, ham hocks or any other cheap and flavorful cut works very nicely as well. Because this cooks for so long the connective tissues of these cheap cuts melt down into gelatin, adding a fabulous body to the dish. This is a very flavorful and hearty meal but, for those of you who pay attention to such things, it’s relatively low in fat and high in fiber. Add a bit of salad, a hunk of good whole grain bread and a glass of decent wine and you have a very respectable and healthy dinner. Me? I just think it’s yummy.

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