Cooking Techniques: Chicken Stock

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf there’s any one commodity in my kitchen that is worth it’s weight in gold, it is home-made chicken stock. I’m not talking about the salty garbage you buy at the store that has been fined and filtered to oblivion and back, or even the kind that costs $80 for 2 cups worth at Williams-Sonoma during the holidays (I wish I was kidding). I’m talking about the kind that takes 8 hours to cook, anyone can make, and results in a rich, delicious, savory, viscous, concentrated broth.

What exactly does one use chicken broth for, other than the obvious chicken soup? Well, let me tell you all the things I use it for.

Risotto. Use your home made chicken stock to make the most delicious risotto you’ve ever had.
Matzoh Ball Soup. Get that matzoh ball mix from the store and get ready to indulge in this classic New York soup.
Pan Sauce. That’s right, you can use your home made chicken broth to make unbelievable pan sauce any day of the week.
Polenta/Lentils/Rice/Grains. Cook your whole grains with some chicken broth and go from ho-hum to OMFG.
Bread Pudding. If you’ve never made this before, you are missing out. Home made chicken stock makes it ethereal.
Braising Liquid. Use chicken stock to braise anything from chicken to veal.
Mashed Potatoes. Add this to your battle-worn mashed potato recipe and get ready to be amazed.
Stir-fry. Use chicken stock in your stir fry for a healthy alternative to oil.
Cereal. Just kidding.

So you see, you can use chicken stock in pretty much anything (well, except for your Cap’n Crunch, but I won’t tell anyone if you try it). This recipe will go over how to make a batch in an 8 quart stock pot, which should yield about 5 quarts of stock. That’s enough to last me about a month. You will find that although cooking it can take a really long time, there is really very little technique involved and it’s very easy to make if you have a whole day to spend at home.

The key is getting enough carcasses to start with. Some recipes call for a whole chicken, meat included. I feel this is a waste of perfectly good meat, as chicken is not great when it’s boiled. Also, the thing that makes home made stock special is the broken-down connective tissue, cartilage and bone which gives it an amazing texture. The only way to achieve this is by using lots of bones and cooking them for a really long time. The best way to get a high bone to meat ratio is by using carcasses with most of the meat removed. I like to use three carcasses to one pot of stock – use fewer and your stock may come out thin and bland. The cheapest way to obtain them is to buy your chicken whole from your local butcher, ask them to break it down into 4 pieces (leg/thigh, boneless breast/wing) and to wrap up the carcass & necks separately so you can freeze them. The meat will serve 4-6 people, or you can freeze the individual pieces and cook them as needed. Over time, you will end up with several frozen chicken carcasses, and then you’ll be ready to make stock.

As for aromatic vegetables to complement the chicken, the sky is the limit. Below I will make some suggestions and generally you want to use at least some carrots, celery & onions. You can really use anything you want. I tend to add herbs, parsley stems, fennel, bay leaf, peppercorns, and anything else that’s super aromatic and can stand up to long periods of cooking without disintegrating. Get creative here!

Tala’s Chicken Stock Recipe
Time Required: 30 minutes prep, 8 hours cooking

Tools:
8 quart stock pot (give or take)
Large fine-mesh strainer
Large heat-resistant container to strain your finished stock into (I just use my smaller stock pot)
Several 1 qt. & 1 pt. mason jars with lids
Fat separator (not mandatory, but saves you a lot of trouble)

Ingredients:
3 large carrots, broken in half
3 celery ribs, broken in half
2 medium onions, paper left on and sliced in half
1 whole head of garlic, paper left on and sliced in half
1-2 bay leaves (I just pick mine off the neighborhood Bay Laurel tree)
10-20 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
1 medium bulb of fennel, green parts removed & sliced in half
3 chicken carcasses, necks, feet, heads, whatever you have left over (except livers, do NOT use the liver as it turns bitter)
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1. Put all ingredients into your 8 quart stock pot. Don’t worry if it gets really full (see below), as everything will break down within the first hour of cooking and fit into the pot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. Fill the pot with water up to the top, leaving about an inch of space so that the water doesn’t boil all over the place.
3. Place on the stove and turn on the heat to high. I start with frozen carcasses and that’s totally fine. They don’t need to be thawed because you are going to be boiling them. Save yourself the trouble and let the water do the work.
4. Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium and bring to a simmer or slow boil. You will notice a grey scum collecting on the surface of the stock (see below). Skim this off with a large spoon and discard. The scum should stop forming after the first 30 minutes or so.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5. Simmer for about 8 hours. You don’t need to boil the bejeesus out of it; a slow boil or a simmer is fine. Some of the water will evaporate, just add it back as it starts to get a little low. You want all of your ingredients to remain submerged, so don’t let it get more than a few inches low. You will also notice that the chicken will start to break apart after the first hour or so and will create more space in the pot for liquid. Below is a photo of what it might look like after a few hours.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA6.  After 8 or so hours have passed, turn the heat off and get out your fine mesh strainer & your second large container (I use my smaller stock pot).
7. Place your strainer over your container and SLOWLY pour the entire contents of your pot of stock through the strainer. Be very careful, ask for help if you need it, and for the love of God don’t burn yourself! You may need to empty out the strainer halfway through as it fills with chicken parts and spent vegetables.
8. Discard the solids from your stock. At this point you’ve boiled every last bit of flavor out of them and they won’t be good for much of anything.
9a. Now for skimming the fat. A fine home-made chicken stock has very little fat in it, but you may notice that the new stock you just strained is full of chicken grease. The easiest way to skim the fat is by using a fat separator. This is one of the very few single-purpose kitchen tools I have, because I make stock so often and it really does save you a lot of trouble. Fill the fat separator and give it a minute so the fat can float to the top. Then, pour off the clear stock into your mason jars, leaving an inch and a half of headspace; this will prevent them from breaking when you freeze them. Once filled, stick them in your freezer.
9b. If you don’t have a fat separator, then just put the whole stock-filled container into an ice water bath to bring the temperature down very quickly – this prevents bacterial growth. Once it’s cool to the touch, stick the whole container in your refrigerator until the fat has floated to the surface and turned solid from the cold. Then you can just remove it with a slotted spoon, then pour the fat-free stock into your mason jars (leaving an inch and a half of headspace!) and then freeze them.
10. When it’s time to use some stock, just pull a jar out of the freezer, remove the metal lid and ring, then stick the whole jar into the microwave and defrost. Use what you need and refrigerate or re-freeze the rest.
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The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe On Earth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile Colleen is Winelandia’s resident baking expert, I’ve been known to bake a thing or two from time to time… sometimes poorly, other times really well. Either way, it doesn’t stop me from trying! One of the easiest things that anyone can bake (including me) is chocolate chip cookies.

Let’s be honest… everyone loves a chocolate chip cookie. They are perfect for all occasions; birthdays, office parties, get-well-soon gifts (they have magical healing properties), housewarming, you name it. I was recently reminded of this awesome cookie recipe when my husband finished his dinner the other night, then looked over at me asking what was for dessert. I had nothing planned and it was getting late, but I was feeling generous so I told him I’d make him some cookies if he went to the store for the chocolate chips. The store was closing in 15 minutes, he was back in 5.

This cookie recipe really is something special for a few reasons. You don’t need to use “softened butter”, you can just melt it in the microwave. This is a huge time saver as many cookie recipes want your butter to be room temperature, and who plans making cookies? Not this girl. These cookies are big, crispy on the edges, and chewy in the middle. There is an ample amount of salt and butter in this recipe, which makes a cookie that is balanced, not too sweet, perfectly salty, and as buttery as Paula Deen circa 2008. They are not health food, people.

I can’t remember where I found this recipe, but it’s been my go-to for as long as I can remember. Like an old, tattered recipe passed down for generations, I’ve moved this one from blog to blog and now I will share it with you. The only things that I would suggest to ensure 100% cookie success is to line your baking sheets with parchment (this makes for a super crunchy edge) and that you measure them out with a 1/4 c. measuring cup. You want these cookies to be big for them to come out both crispy and chewy. They keep well in an air-tight container for 3 days.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies on Earth

Tools:
Cookie sheet(s)
1/4 c. measuring cup
Parchment paper
Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
Stand mixer, hand mixer, or good old fashioned elbow grease

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (16 ounces)

Method:
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
4. Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer or in your stand mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Lightly beat 1 egg with a fork in a small bowl and add 1 3/4 tablespoons of it plus 2 remaining whole eggs to butter mixture, beating with mixer until creamy, about 1 minute.
6. Beat in vanilla.
7. Put your mixer away! The next step should be done by hand to ensure a tender cookie.
8. Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture and mix by hand with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just blended, then stir in chips. Do NOT over-work your cookie dough.
9. Scoop 1/4 cup batter for each cookie, arranging mounds 3 inches apart, on 2 baking sheets. Flatten mounds into 3-inch rounds using moistened palm of your hand. Form remaining cookies on additional sheets of parchment.
10. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and continue making cookies in same manner using cooled baking sheets.
11. Crack a jug of milk and enjoy some of these cookies while they are still warm from the oven.

Recipe: Easy Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

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It’s officially the middle of June. Spring sprung a while ago and now the days are getting longer and warmer. One of the most lovely seasonal ingredients you can find around here this time of year is fresh blueberries. They are delicious! Tart, flavorful, juicy and bite-sized. Blueberries are extremely versatile; you can add them to your oatmeal or pancakes, enjoy them with fresh ricotta cheese or hide them inside of cornmeal muffins for a delectable surprise. To top it all off, they are my favorite color – blue!

I get my blueberries from a family farm at the Alemany Farmer’s Market called Hooverville Orchards. This vendor is only at the market for the summer, fall & winter seasons. They grow apples, pears, citrus, peaches, sweet cherries, sour cherries, blueberries and various other fruits. You can find them at the Alemany market from early June through February. Because they grow sour cherries, I find myself coming here starting in late May, hoping to find them on their first weekend back at the market to ask when their sour cherries will be in (more on that later).

For now, we have settled for blueberries. Since Father’s Day is upon us, I thought it would be nice to cover a pancake recipe. Dads love pancakes, it’s a well-known fact. My own father used to make pancakes for us every Saturday morning while we watched the Smurfs. He wasn’t much of a cook so he used Bisquick instead of making them from scratch. I always assumed that since my father never made them from scratch then they must just be too complicated to make without a mix. How wrong I was! Pancakes are very easy to make, you just have to use a light hand, butter and medium-low heat. Anybody could make these, even kids.

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes
(adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Additional butter for cooking

Method:
In a medium bowl, add the vinegar to the milk and let stand for 5 minutes while it sours. Melt the 2 tbsp. butter on the stovetop or in the microwave. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg & melted butter into the soured milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just barely incorporated – there should still be some small and medium lumps in the batter (this will ensure tender, fluffy pancakes!). Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Melt enough butter to just cover the bottom of the pan. Pour batter 1/4 cup at a time onto the skillet and cook until you start to see bubbles on the surface of the pancake and the edges begin to dry. Flip the pancake and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar & fresh blueberries for garnish, and serve with syrup of your choice.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Cocktail Recipe: Sazerac

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If you are a whiskey lover like me, you may have had the pleasure of enjoying a Sazerac at some point in your life. The Sazerac is an old-fashioned cocktail from pre-Civil War New Orleans; it’s a combination of Rye whiskey, Absinthe, water, bitters, sugar & lemon. This highly aromatic, spiritous cocktail is complex, balanced, slightly spicy and extremely delicious when prepared correctly. It’s very important to follow the recipe precisely – being sure to measure your ingredients – when making this drink. It can easily fall out of balance. I’ve had more bad Sazeracs than good ones when ordering them at a bar or restaurant.

There are several variations of this cocktail and you might see it made with Cognac instead of Rye, or with different kinds of bitters. Traditionally it’s made just with Peychaud’s bitters, but I like to add a little dash of Angostura bitters to provide another layer of complexity. One other important factor, I believe, is using the most minuscule amount of Absinthe as possible. The flavor and aroma of Absinthe is so strong that it can easily overpower the drink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe leading principle behind this cocktail is not necessarily the ingredients, but how it’s prepared. Instead of a cocktail shaker, you use two chilled glasses equal in size; one for mixing the cocktail, the other for ‘rinsing’ with Absinthe and serving. The method is described in detail below. One thing I would like to point out is that instead of ‘rinsing’ the serving glass, I use a little perfume-type bottle filled with Absinthe to spray the inside of the glass with. A really wonderful bartender I met in Austin was kind enough to give me one when I marveled at his as he was making me a Sazerac. It’s pure genius.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASazerac
(adapted from chow.com)

Tools:
Two small, chilled glasses (I use scotch glasses)
Vegetable Peeler
Cocktail Strainer
Muddler (I use the blunt end of a chopstick)
Jigger

Ingredients:
(makes one cocktail)
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (I like Bulliet, it’s inexpensive and perfect for this drink)
Absinthe (I use St. George, duh)
2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1 Sugar Cube
Lemon Twist
Splash of Water

Method:
Chill both of your glasses, one filled with ice.
Drop the sugar cube into the chilled glass with no ice.
Add just enough water to moisten the sugar cube.
Add 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters & 1 dash Angostura bitters & muddle the sugar cube.
Measure and pour 1.5 oz. rye whiskey into the glass.
Add a few ice cubes to the glass and stir gently for 10 seconds.
Empty ice cubes from the second chilled glass.
Add the smallest amount of Absinthe, swirl around the glass, and dump the excess out (or use a spritzer like I did).
Strain the mixture from Glass #1 into the Absinthe-washed Glass #2.
Peel the zest of a lemon over the glass, twist the zest over the glass, and wipe around the rim.
Discard the lemon twist & enjoy your cocktail.

If you made it right, this cocktail should be lemony, anisey, oaky and spicy all at once. It’s truly a gentleman’s drink, or gentlelady’s drink in my case. Enjoy!

Easy Meals: Nectarine & Burrata Watercress Salad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of our favorite seasonal foods here in the Bay Area is stonefruit. Colleen loves it so much, she got peaches tattooed on her back. True story. I was at the Alemany Famer’s Market today to stalk the sour cherry vendor (2 more weeks…) and snagged a tasty-looking sample from a neighboring stall. All they had were yellow nectarines, which happen to be my favorite.

Holy moly! They were amazing. So sweet, juicy, tart and creamy – the perfect stonefruit. I picked up a big bag of them for $3/lb (organic, too) with no real intentions for them other than shoveling them into my face.

I left the Alemany market, took a detour for the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and found that Cowgirl Creamery is now selling mini 4oz. tubs of burrata. While I have no issue plowing through a full 16oz of this sweet, creamy, heavenly cheese, I decided it would be better for my heath and pocketbook if I bought the little tub. It’s the perfect amount for two people and it only cost me $5.

I remembered a cheesemonger once told me that the perfect accompaniment for burrata was stonefruit. I then recalled a salad I recently had at Eno Wine Bar in Union square with grilled peaches, peppery greens and burrata cheese. It was heavenly, although the peaches were under-ripe. I thought I would do the concept justice and make my own rendition at home with perfectly ripe fruit. I picked up a big bag of watercress from County Line Harvest and took my bounty home to Brisbane.

My husband and I enjoyed this lovely salad accompanied with a peppery champagne vinaigrette and a bottle of Wind Gap 2012 Trousseau Gris. Trousseay Gris was once widely planted across California, but these days there’s only about 10 acres of it left. It creates a wine that is delicate and fresh with aromas of honeysuckle, mineral & citrus. It’s so fresh and delicious, I thought it would be a lovely compliment to our summery salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pair was a match made in heaven. You can pick up this wine for yourself for the super low price of $24. It’s hard to find a wine this delicious and well-made at this price point, so I suggest buying up as much of it as you can if you see it in a store.

The salad was very easy to make, the recipe is below.

Nectarine & Burrata Watercress Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette
(serves 2)

Ingredients:
1/3 lb. watercress, pepper-cress, spring mix, arugula, or whatever
1 tree-ripe yellow nectarine or peach
4 oz. burrata
Olive Oil
Champagne vinegar
Pinch of salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Put the greens into a large bowl.
  2. Pour equal parts champagne vinegar & olive oil (about 1 oz each) into a 4 oz canning jar with a lid or a small bowl.
  3. Add salt and pepper to the dressing.
  4.  Put a lid on the jar and shake the dressing, or whisk in the bowl.
  5.  Cut your nectarine or peach into pretty slices.
  6.  Cut your 4 oz. of Burrata into wedges.
  7.  Pour the dressing onto the greens and toss.
  8.  Plate equal parts of greens into two separate bowls.
  9.  Fan out your stonefruit slices and place them in the center of the salad.
  10.  Garnish the stonefruit slices with two wedges of burrata.
  11.  Drizzle the burrata with olive oil and give it another grind of black pepper

Enjoy your amazing salad and wash it down with copious amounts of California Trousseau Gris.

 

Recipe: Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Parsnip Puree & Salad

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I went to the City of Lights – Paris, France – and ate one of the finest meals of my life. I barely spoke any French but managed to order the duck breast at Les Enfants Perdus in the 10th arrondissement. It came with a lovely purée of parsnips and a light salad. It was simple, beautiful and delicious.

It’s been about a year since my last trip to Paris and this Sunday I am leaving for Italy & Spain. I thought I’d get myself in the mood for food by re-creating that amazing meal at home. Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients:
2 boneless Muscovy duck breasts with skin on (about 1/2 lb. each)
2 big handfuls of arugula
2 lbs. parsnips, quartered and cored
1 cup dry white wine
1 medium shallot, minced
Fresh thyme sprigs
Butter
Olive oil
Champagne vinegar
Salt
Pepper

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Toss the cored parsnip quarters in a bowl with salt and a long pour of olive oil.
4. Arrange the parsnips on a cookie sheet (with foil for easier cleanup) and bake for 15 minutes.
5. While the parsnips are roasting, score your duck breast skin with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut through the skin and fat, but not into the meat. This will help the fat render out from underneath the skin and make the skin crispy.
Duck Skin6. Turn your roasted parsnips, then put them back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes. They don’t take long to cook, so be careful not to burn them. They are done when a knife slides easily into the thickest part.
7. When your parsnips are done roasting (they should look like the photo below), put them into a food processor or use a stick blender to purée them. Throw in a couple tablespoons of unsalted butter or olive oil to help them along. Purée until creamy. Use a little bit of stock to loosen up the mixture if it’s too thick. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Cover and put in a warm spot.
7. Pat the duck breasts dry with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper on both sides.
8. Heat up a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until it’s pretty darn hot but not burn-anything-that-touches-it hot. If you flick some water at it, the droplets should sizzle and bounce around. Once hot, lay down your duck breasts skin-side down. Don’t use oil, the fat in the duck skin will render out and create more than you need. Once the skin starts to turn golden (about 5 minutes), drain the fat in the pan off into a jar (you can use this for cooking later, and never pour fat into your drain), turn the heat down to medium-low, and slowly render out the rest of the fat until the skin is a deep golden brown, another 7-9 minutes or so.
9. Turn the head back up to medium-high. Flip the duck breasts so they are meat-side down. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until medium-rare or medium. Don’t overcook them.
10. Remove duck breasts from the pan to a warm plate in a warm place, and let them rest for a couple of minutes. Don’t cover them, the skin will lose it’s crispness.
11. Drain the fat off the pan into a jar and save for later use.
12. Next, toss your minced shallots and a couple of sprigs of thyme into the hot pan that you cooked the duck in. Cook these over medium heat for about a minute, scraping up the fond as you go, and then pour a cup or more of white wine into the pan and reduce by 2/3. It should look like it’s boiling ever so slightly, otherwise it will take forever to reduce. Continue to scrape up any fond in the pan, it’s packed with flavor. Pour in any juices that have leaked out of the duck that’s resting on the plate. Once the pan sauce is reduced, turn off the heat and toss in a tablespoon or more of butter. Melt the butter into the sauce and strain the whole shebang into a small jar.
13. Next, make your salad dressing. Pour equal parts champagne vinegar and olive oil into a small jar with a lid. Add some salt & pepper, then put the lid on and shake it up. Put your arugula into a bowl and pour the dressing over it, then toss.
14. Time to plate! Put a big scoop of roasted parsnip purée onto a plate and then lay the duck breast over it. Lay a sprig of thyme over the duck breast as a garnish. Put a handful of the dressed salad next to it. Now, pour some of that delicious pan sauce you made around the parsnip purée but try to keep it out of your salad.
Duck Finished
Voila! Delicious, Paris-inspired meal. You can make it even better by pairing the perfect wine with it. I paired a really nice Arbois Chardonnay by Jacques Puffeney (2010) – $26 from Arlequin Wine Merchant in San Francisco. This wine is slightly oxidative but still really fresh and food-friendly. Jura wines are some of the best food-wines I have come across. Alternatively you could pair it with a nice Burgundy or even a domestic Pinot Noir. Have fun with it! A good wine pairing should make both the food and the wine taste better than they do by themselves.

Enjoy!

Cooking Techniques: Dry Beans

I once received a book from a foodie-friend for my birthday. The title was An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy & Grace. This book completely changed the way I cook; no longer do I rely on recipes, going to the grocery store to buy ingredients I think I need, spending frivolously just to make a meal the way I think it’s intended to be. This book taught me versatile cooking techniques, how to stretch your ingredients, and how to improvise.

One of the techniques I learned from this book is how to cook dry beans. I love beans. They are rich in fiber, protein and are heart-healthy. They lower cholesterol and make a nice compliment to any meal. They keep very well after being cooked and one pound of beans goes a long way.

My favorite purveyor of beans is Rancho Gordo. You can find their beans in natural grocery stores in the Bay Area as well as farmer’s markets. They are located in Napa and have a huge variety of heirloom beans at reasonable prices ($5.50/lb). I never knew beans could be so good until I started cooking with these employing the technique I learned in the above referenced book. My favorite variety is called Good Mother Stallard. They are velvety smooth and make an awesome bean broth.

Cooking beans is very simple. Generally it starts with a long soak. You only need to soak beans if they aren’t super fresh. Rancho Gordo beans don’t need to be soaked because they are always fresh, but I do anyway to reduce overall cooking time. Once you soak your beans, you can drain them, rinse them, add fresh water, and get to cooking.

The Most Delicious Beans You’ve Ever Had

1. Soak your beans during the day if you are into planning ahead. This will save you time later on.
2. When you get home that evening, drain the beans (you can give this water to a potted plant, if you have one), give them a good rinse, then add them back to the same pot & cover them with two inches of fresh water.
3. Add a good, long pour of olive oil. Add a couple whole smashed cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, and any odds and ends you may have in your refrigerator. Carrots, celery, onions with skins, fennel bulb, parsley stems, fresh thyme sprigs, parmesean rinds & celery root all give great flavor to the broth. Throw them in there halved or quartered. Don’t overdo it. You  don’t want your pot stuffed full with no room; the beans need space to expand. Do not add salt yet.
4. Bring the beans & things to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. I like to cover my beans to prevent the water from evaporating, and you also require less heat to simmer them this way. This saves energy.
5. Cook those puppies until they are tender and have a smooth consistency when eaten. This generally takes about an hour and a half from start to finish. They are done when you sample five beans and they are all delicious and smooth. Do NOT be afraid to taste as you go. Don’t over-cook or under-cook them. Add salt to taste at this point. Wait a minute or two, taste again, and adjust salt if needed. Turn off the heat.
6. Remove all the odds and ends from your delicious beans & throw into the compost bin. You’re done!

These beans can be used in any way and stored in mason jars in the fridge for up to a week. Sometimes I’ll reheat a pint of beans w/broth in a small pot and poach an egg IN the beans. Beans are great in soups, by themselves, with anything pork, mixed with sauteed bitter greens such as kale or beet greens, served alongside sausage, with fish, you name it. The greatest thing about these beans is the broth; even if you’ve eaten all the beans, save the broth in jars in the freezer and use it as a soup base. Nothing gets wasted.

I enjoyed these beans tonight with Fatted Calf Lamb Merguez Sausage & beet greens sauteed in olive oil. Delicious!