I woke up at 5am to the sound of absolute Quiet. I sat there appreciating it for a couple of minutes, but as soon as I opened my mouth to tell my husband it had stopped raining, I heard the raindrops start again.
Oh boy, it’s really dumping now, as if somebody just hit the switch!
Dammit, I told you people to stop complaining about the drought. If this keeps up, Dairyville will be headed for Sacramento.
How soon we forget!
Time to find stuff to do indoors. Yesterday I decided to clean out all the kitchen cabinets, see what’s in there. I don’t have a very big kitchen, so it doesn’t take that long. It’s nice to clean the dust and crumbs out and find stuff you forgot about. Yesterday I found a bag of Great Northern beans that had got shuffled behind the giant jars of rice and wheat.
I am not the greatest bean cooker, which is embarrassing given my rich mix of White Trash and Mexican heritage. Every White Trash and Mexican woman is supposed to be an expert bean cooker, but I’ve had to work hard at it. Maybe it’s the two of us in there, arguing over everything.
There’s a lot of advice out there about cooking dry beans. One recipe I saw yesterday said you don’t need to soak the beans, but of course that adds to the cooking time. I’ve heard soaking the beans can take some of the gas out of them so you don’t have to worry about indigestion and “the toots.” My husband and I had grown wary because of late-night stomach aches, we started buying canned beans, which are about twice as expensive.
But I couldn’t let it go. Knowing how cheap dry beans are, I have a stubborn compulsion to learn how to cook them right, sometime before I die. So, I got on the computer and looked for recipes for Great Northern beans. My step-dad, from Texas, was an expert bean cooker and he liked Great Northerns and Navy beans, he said they were the easiest to cook.
I would never cook dry beans without washing and then soaking them – they’re usually dirty, you have to check for “foreign substances,” like rocks, dried peas, etc. The recipe I found online said put them in cold water and set them in the fridge overnight – my parents always boiled them for 20 minutes and left them on the stove overnight. I went along with the recipe, having used my parents’ methods all those years and never had consistent success.
Yesterday afternoon I took them out of the fridge and washed them again – they were swollen about twice their original size but still hard. The recipe I had said they only needed to cook for 40 minutes – I didn’t think that was right, so started early. I covered them with about a quart of store bought chicken broth and set them on low heat about 2:30.
At 3:30 they were still a little chalky, so I just let them ride another 10 minutes. According to the recipe, I added a tablespoon of salt for this last 10 minutes. This seemed like a lot of salt to add to beans that had been cooked in salted broth, but I know salt has a lot to do with cooking, not just flavor.
When the timer went off, they were “firm but not mushy,” so I followed instructions, took them off the heat and poured them into a strainer pot to save the remaining chicken broth. While the beans sat straining I re-oiled my big dutch oven and threw in a boneless chicken thigh, cutting it into bite size pieces as it cooked. When that was browned pretty good but not completely cooked through I took it out and set it on a plate while I added a strip of proscuitto to the pot and then dumped in about two cups of chopped onions, carrots and celery, with some garlic smashed in.
After about 15 minutes, I replaced the chicken and beans in the pot, with two cups of remaining chicken broth, and let that cook for about another 15 minutes. The chicken broth started to turn into a golden sauce, and the smell was enough to bring in the Seventh Fleet.
I only got two pots dirty for this meal, and one was just a rinse out. The other still holds enough for tonight. I might run out to Safeway today and get a few big shrimp – I don’t eat shrimp often, but this dish seems to call out for some fish.
Beans, beans, the magical fruit.