What you see here is an excellent, hearty, winter-spirited casserole. It’s simple to pull together, and once in the oven the smell of garlic and herbs baking alongside the heirloom beans, simmering tomatoes, and golden mushrooms will bring neighbors in off the sidewalk. You should make it a.s.a.p!
I found the recipe deep in back of Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen cookbook - (Rancho Gordo forever around here). The technique for cooking the mushrooms is part of what caught my attention. You cook the mushrooms in quite a bit of liquid and then allow them to cook in the residual fat (olive oil) after the liquid evaporates. The technique is like carnitas, the classic Mexican pork dish. Hence the recipe title. But, of course, unlike the traditional preparation, cooking this with mushrooms makes it a vegetarian casserole.
Choosing the Right Beans
The recipe falls into the Dark & Hearty Beans chapter of the book, and Eye of the Goat beans, or other brown beans are what's recommended. That said, many, many types of beans could work here. I went a bit rogue and used some beautiful Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye Beans. They're creamy, melty, and mild. They took on the bubbling casserole juices beautifully. I also love the way those beans in particular hold their markings. Beyond those suggestions, I imagine using any creamy white bean would be nice here too - for example, the Alubia Blanca, or Marcella. And, if you only have canned beans on hand - it's ok! Drain them, rinse them, use them!
Cooking the Mushrooms
I just wanted to leave a visual reference here. This is how the mushrooms looked (above) when I take them off the heat. And now that I'm looking, I could have even gone a bit longer. Do you see how there's nice browning on the edges? That's what you're after. Then, you add all the other ingredients to the same pan (below), give it all a good stir, add a bit of cheese and pop it in the oven. I’ve tweaked the original recipe a bit to allow you to go from stovetop to oven in one skillet (reflected below), and bumped the quantity up by half, because this casserole is popular and goes fast.
Here are a couple ways you might build on this idea!
- With Breadcrumbs: Toss 1 cup of chunky breadcrumbs with a glut of olive oil and sprinkle across the top of the bean mixture before baking.
- Breakfast Casserole: Make three divots in the bean-mushroom mixture prior to baking, crack an egg into each of the depressions & bake until eggs are set, and bean mixture is bubbling. I included this recipe in my list of best bean recipes, so be sure to browse it if you're looking for more bean-centric inspiration!
Heirloom Bean & Mushroom “Carnitas” Casserole
As the recipe highlights, the mushrooms are a fantastic taco filling.
- 3 cups sliced button mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 3 cups cooked heirloom beans, drained
- 1+ cup canned whole peeled tomatoes chopped; plus 3/4 cup of juice from the canned tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 8 very small fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Start by making the Mushroom Carnitas. In an oven-proof skillet, place all of the Mushroom Carnitas ingredients - mushrooms, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and oregano - and add just enough water to not quite cover the mushrooms. Bring the liquid to a hard boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer; cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated, about 15 minutes, stirring to avoid scorching. Watch carefully: Once evaporation starts, things happen quickly. The mushrooms will start to sauté in the residual oil. Keep stirring until the mushrooms are golden brown. Remove from heat.
Add the beans, tomatoes, garlic, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and stir well. Taste, and adjust the salt, if needed. Arrange the mozzarella on top of the mushroom-bean mixture and push them down into the liquid a bit.
Bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, but start checking in after 30 minutes. When finished, the liquid should be bubbling and reduced a bit, and the cheese starting to melt and turn golden a bit.
Adapted from the Heirloom Bean & Mushroom “Carnitas” Casserole recipe in The Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen: Everyday Cooking with Heirloom Beans, Vegetables, Greens, and Grains by Steve Sando & Julia Newberry.