Food & Wine magazine's Emily Kaiser wrote an article in November of 2008 that highlighted two of my favorite things: Steve Sando's Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, and a bean recipe from NOPA - a restaurant that was just a short walk from my front door for many years. I've enjoyed Laurence Jossel's beans countless times, both at the restaurant and by making them in my own kitchen. I even brought them to Thanksgiving one year. Imagine plump, creamy beans baked in a bright, chunky tomato sauce, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs, plenty of tangy crumbled feta, and an emerald drizzle of oregano-parsley pesto. I love his original recipe, but the last time I made them I decided to add a few of my own twists. I did a subtly smoky chipotle-version of the tomato sauce, a cilantro drizzle, kale, whole grain bread crumbs, and queso fresco cheese. I'm including the recipe down below.
Make Ahead Magic
One of the great things about this recipe is that you can do many of the components ahead of time. You can boil the dried beans, make the pesto, make the tomato sauce, and toast the breadcrumbs. None of which are exceedingly difficult. You can then assemble the components in a flash, and into the oven it goes. Perfect for when you have friends over.
Can I Use Canned Beans?
I'm sure someone is going to ask, so I'll answer ahead of time - how about substituting canned beans? Ok - here's the deal - in my experience canned beans lack the structure that beans cooked from scratch have. The canned guys tend to break and go to mush far more quickly. In this recipe they will likely work, but won't hold up as well. The flavor will be fine, but the texture will be a different beast. If you go this route, don't skimp on the bread crumbs.
Give these beans a try (either version!), they are outrageously good. The shot above is the recipe in progress, before baking. And the photo below is the beans prior to soaking. They're huge. You're looking for beans the size of your thumb prior to soaking for this recipe. I make some suggestion for different types in the recipe below.
Also! There are no shortage of bean recipes on this site. The ones I make most often are these homemade refried beans, and if you've never cooked beans from dried, no problem! This post will show you how to cook beans that are simple and amazing.
Giant Chipotle Baked Beans
In the lead photo you can see I used queso fresco cheese, it is creamy, and oozy melty. It lends totally different results vs. feta, which stays relatively structured and is quite a bit more salty. You can use either or a combination of the two
- 1 pound of large, dried white beans (corona, giant limas, gigantes, or any giant white beans you can find), rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight - or up to 24 hours.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 big pinches of red pepper flakes
- 2 pinches of salt
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 1 14- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers
- 1 medium clove of garlic
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- big pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup kale or chard, washed, de-stemmed, and very finely chopped
- 1 cup queso fresco or feta cheese (see head notes)
- 1 1/2 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs, toasted in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil
Drain and rinse the beans after their overnight soak. Then place them in a large saucepan and cover with an inch or two of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are cooked through and just tender. This can take anywhere from an hour to two hours (potentially more) depending on your beans, but do your best to avoid overcooking. Remove from heat, salt the beans (still in bean broth) with about a tablespoon of salt - enough that the bean liquid is tasty but on the salty side. Let the beans sit like this for ten minutes or so before draining and setting the beans aside.
In the meantime, place the 2 tablespoons olive oil, red pepper flakes, couple pinches of salt, and chopped garlic into a cold medium saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant - you don't want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and the fresh oregano and heat to a gentle simmer, this takes just a couple minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the adobo sauce - carefully take a taste (you don't want to burn your tongue)...If the sauce needs more salt add it now, more chipotle flavor? Go for it. Set aside.
Make the cilantro pesto by combining the clove of garlic and cilantro in a food processor. Pulse while you drizzle in the olive oil - alternately, you could do this by hand. Season with a bit of salt and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. In a 9x13 baking pan (or large oven-proof casserole/dutch oven) toss the beans with the tomato sauce and the kale. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in the top-third of the oven for roughly twenty-five (if you're using queso fresco) to forty minutes, I look for the cheese to start browning and any visible beans to get a bit crusty. Remove from oven and let sit for about ten minutes. Top the beans with the breadcrumbs and just before serving drizzle with the cilantro pesto.
Serves about 6.