Full of Beans…

I got the coolest birthday present from my parents: ranchogordo

5 varieties of heirloom beans from Ranch Gordo, as well as a canvas bag (good for my knitting) and a cookbook.

Although I loooooove beans, I had never heard of Rancho Gordo before. Turns out it’s California Company devoted to heirloom beans and “New World” food including grains (Amaranth, Quinoa, Wild Rice), Chiles, Spices, Chocolate, and more. Founder Steve Sando writes: “As you cook these heirloom beans and other grains and ingredients, keep in mind that we have a common New World culture with Mexico and the rest of the Americas. What you are doing isn’t exotic and esoteric. It’s continuing traditions that are well-established for a reason. I think most of us who are immigrants to the Americas are staying, so rather than constantly trying to reproduce English gardens or European wine, it’s nice to know what’s from here and discover ways of incorporating these ingredients into your kitchen. New World food is exciting, tasty, healthy, romantic, and possibly, easier on the earth.”

rinsed beans

Look at those beautiful Royal Corona beans…all rinsed and ready for soaking!

After all that, the first bean I decided to cook was Rancho Gordo’s first bean from outside the Americas. The Royal Corona looked like the Gigantes I enjoyed in Greece and I found a similar sounding recipe in the cookbook.

 

carmelized onion cassolet

Book and Beans available at http://www.RanchoGordo.com, book alone available on Amazon

 

Caramelized Onion Cassoulet from Supper at Rancho Gordo and reprinted by the Napa Valley Register

Serves 6-8

1 pound dried Classic Cassoulet or Royal Corona beans, picked over and rinsed

2½ quarts water

1 tsp. kosher or sea salt

For the onion confit:

3 large yellow onions

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt

1 bay leaf

For the tomato sauce:

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt

1/2 tsp. finely ground pepper

To finish:

1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme

1 tsp. kosher or sea salt

1 Tbsp. minced fresh winter savory, or 1 tsp. dried

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

In a large saucepan, combine the beans, water and 1 tsp. of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender and have no hint of crunch when bitten, about 2 hours. Remove from the heat and drain, reserving 1 cup of the broth.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the onion confit. Finely slice the onions, then chop them. In a skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, add the onions, salt and bay leaf and stir to coat the onions with the butter. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and reduced in volume, 10-15 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, until the onions are quite soft and lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

To prepare the tomato sauce, in a small saute pan or other small pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic and saute until soft, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble, in a large Dutch oven, warm 1/4 cup of the onion confit over medium heat, stirring to avoid scorching. Add the tomato sauce, 1 tsp. salt, 1½ tsp. of the thyme, and 1½ tsp. of the fresh winter savory (or 1/2 tsp. of the dried) and stir to mix well. Stir in 3/4 cup of the reserved bean broth and remove from the heat. Add half of the beans, and half of the remaining onion confit and fold the beans, confit and sauce together with a wooden spoon or spatula, being careful not to crush the beans. Add the remaining beans and the remaining onion confit and fold together gently just until evenly mixed.

Put the bread crumbs in a small bowl, drizzle with the butter and toss to coat evenly. Add the remaining 1½ tsp. thyme and remaining 1½ tsp. fresh winter savory (or 1/2 tsp. dried) and toss to mix well. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top of the beans.

Bake until the juices are bubbling around the edges and a deep golden crust has formed on the surface, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. To serve, break through the crust with a spoon.

I used the quick-soak method recommended by the recipe–2 hours on the stove.

 

soaked beans

Then the kitchen was filled with the delicious aroma of caramelizing onions. I used my favorite orange clay pot to bake the layers of beans and onions with breadcrumbs on top.

Delicious!

beans on table

I prefer very very soft beans, so will use the extended soaking method for the next ones, but I love this bean and this dish. The beans are sweet and mild, their juice mixed with the onions and tomato paste makes for a incredibly rich mouth-watering “gravy” and I am really enjoying the leftovers.

beans on plate

Even if you don’t intend to order anything (although I dare you to browse through the offerings and resist), visit the Rancho Gordo website. They’ve got a great blog, a variety of free recipes, and plenty of information about their amazing XOXOC project, community and new world agriculture.

Pretty soon I’ll be placing my own personal order…because I’m dying to try their stone-ground chocolate!

 

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