There are countless ingredients clamoring for space in your kitchen. Taste Makers are the ones that actually make a dish amazing. Each month, we’re exploring one ingredient that has earned its place in our small kitchens and will make even simple food taste spectacular.
For most of my life, the only beans I cooked with came from a can. It seemed like the better option: Bags of dried beans always seemed to be dusty from months, maybe even years, of neglect in pantries and on store shelves. And while the dried beans were less expensive, it’s not like canned beans are pricey. The one time I did attempt to cook a bag from the store, I simmered them for what felt like an entire day and they hadn’t gotten close to softening. I gave up and committed myself to a canned bean lifestyle.
But recently I found some dried beans that completely altered my outlook. After hearing about their near-cult status among fans, I stumbled across a bag of Rancho Gordo’s Royal Corona Beans in my local specialty shop and decided to give them a try. I’m glad I did: These giant, eye-catching beans are one of the absolute best things to grace my pantry in years, and have forever changed my opinion on the humble dried legume.
The Difference Is in the Bean
I know what you’re thinking: Beans are beans. I thought so too, until I tried these beans. These beans have character. You see, most beans you find at the store are modest creatures. They never attempt to be anything other than reliable and basic. So when you come across a variety that shouts for attention, you listen.
Rancho Gordo, which is based in the Napa Valley, makes a living out of selling these attention-grabbing beans. Their heirloom dried beans come in shapes, colors, and sizes I’ve never seen before. More importantly, they cook into an impossible creaminess, and offer a deep flavor I didn’t realize beans could bring to a dish.
If Dried Beans Were a Country, Royal Corona Would Be King
Just about all of Rancho Gordo’s beans make me swoon, but it’s the Royal Coronas that make me break out in heart-eyes emojis. If the photos don’t convey it, let me be clear: These are Jack and the Giant Bean Stalk-sized beans. These are enormous, inch-long white beans that catch your eye even when they’re in the bag. And when simmered, they grow even bigger, with a thick, nutty skin that gives way to an incredibly rich and creamy center. You could eat them with a knife and fork.
I can (and do) eat these beans all year long, but I especially love them as we make the transition from summer to fall. They’re dreamy in a chilled bean salad, and meaty and satisfying in soups and stews. And I mean it when I say meaty — these dense beans will even satisfy a full-blown carnivore.
Buy now: Rancho Gordo Royal Corona Beans
My Favorite Ways to Eat Rancho Gordo Royal Corona Beans
There are a few options when it comes to cooking dried beans. My preferred method is to soak them overnight, then bring them to a short boil and simmer them on the stove for an hour or two until they become tender. But you can also rely on your oven, pressure cooker, or even a slow cooker: Here are Four Essential Ways to Cook a Pot of Beans.
Then it’s just a matter of which delicious way you want to eat them.
- Marinate them. Where I live, the humidity doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. So I keep a steady supply of beans marinated in plenty of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. That way I can eat them cold, right out the fridge, or pack them up for late-summer picnics.
- Let them swim in broth. When the weather finally does break, I plan to let them swim in a simple Parmesan or tomato-based broth and leave them mostly unadorned, aside from crusty bread on the side to sop things up.
- Pile them on toast. When they’re still warm from simmering, rub a slice of toast with a garlic clove, spoon the beans on top, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and grab a napkin.
- Pasta e fagioli! Turn this soup into a statement piece by swapping the cannellini beans with Royal Coronas.
- Bulk up a salad. If you’re looking to add fiber and protein to a pile of fresh greens, you can’t go wrong with beans. Any beans will do, but these definitely don’t mess around.
- Bake them into a cheesy casserole. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen loves these beans as much as I do. When she tried them, she did something ingenious: She doused them in tomato sauce and cheese, making something she called “pizza beans.” It’s well worth making!
Your turn: What’s your favorite underrated ingredient in your pantry? What do you reach for when you want to elevate your cooking quickly and easily? Tell us in the comments below! We may give it the star treatment in an upcoming edition of Taste Makers.
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