No overthinking required.
December 12, 2008 5:29 AM   Subscribe

A plate of beans.

Beans are tasty, nutritious, and a great way to stretch your food budget.

Want to think a little more about your plate of beans?

Recipes from Rancho Gordo

The Bean Bible

The Hillbilly Housewife

Do you have two days to overthink your plate of beans? Try Paula Wolfert's Toulouse-style Cassoulet.

Whatever you do, don't forget the Beano!
posted by Daily Alice (56 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Straight ahead, how to make a plate of beans. No overthinking required.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:43 AM on December 12, 2008

I'll be damned.
posted by grubi at 5:43 AM on December 12, 2008

/me enters
/me lights a match, blows it out, waves it around
/me leaves

posted by not_on_display at 5:50 AM on December 12, 2008

Man, I've always wanted to switch over from canned beans to making my own from dried. The canned beans have so much salt added to them, and I know it'd be way, way better for me to be able to control that.

But 6 hours of soaking, then 2 hours of cooking?! I'm terrible at planning ahead, and I rarely cook stuff that requires 2 hours of cook time (unless it's something very special for a bunch of people). I guess I'm stcking to canned beans for a while longer...
posted by piratebowling at 5:54 AM on December 12, 2008

piratebowling - Invest in a pressure cooker. I've made refried beans from dried within an hour's time.
posted by wg at 5:57 AM on December 12, 2008

I'm a little confused, is there supposed to be some sort of underlying subtext to this post?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:02 AM on December 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

ponders, deeply
posted by infini at 6:04 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wednesday night, my wife sliced her arm open on an open can of beans while preparing dinner.

While she was holding a paper towel to the wound to try to staunch the flow of blood, we debated whether or not we needed to get her to the emergency room. The cut was deep, but it wasn't that deep and we wondered if by going to the emergency room would be worthwhile. What if someone who needed emergency care didn't get it because the doctor was busy with a bean-related injury? What if they yelled at us for wasting hospital time on a minor cut?

"Look," I said, "We're over thinking this. Let's just go."

"Did you just quote Metafilter at me?" she asked.

I hemmed and hawed and said maybe I did. But it really wasn't my fault, I mean, we were debating the proper treatment for a cut received in pursuit of a plate of beans, so it was entirely apropos. Besides, we know the guy who coined the phrase, so it wasn't quoting Metafilter so much as quoting a friend.

She agreed to my points, nodding her head a little sluggishly, but she still seemed to have some doubts. So I paused in getting our things together for the trip to the hospital to make sure we were on the same page here. I mean, doctors ask a lot of questions about cuts and wounds and the like, and I wanted to make sure that we didn't bring Mefi into it. What if the local Fox news affiliate got involved? They'd be all over an internet site that encourages people to cut themselves on bean cans. And not just any can of beans, but refried beans, which would add a whole racial/cultural element to the story.

My wife then pointed out that the hospital we should be getting on our way to was in the more immigrant-populated area of Somerville and that she was concerned that if we mentioned that it was a can of refried beans that it could be seen as pandering. I told her that she had bigger things to worry about than liberal guilt, but in the end we decided we'd just call it a can of beans and be evasive if they asked us to follow up on the type - red, black, pinto, it shouldn't matter, right?

But we had seen House the night before and knew that any bit of information could be the one that would save the day. We wondered if they'd need to break into our house to see if there were any environmental factors to the emergency. Should we just bring the can with us to save them time? But then they would know it was refried beans! But then again, that would be proof that we were not just pandering to the hospital's neighborhood when we said what type of beans were at the center of the injury.

However, the can of beans had proved to be dangerous to begin with. Were there laws about bringing a weapon into a hospital? I would have checked, but we had dropped the Mac off for repairs earlier that day, so we couldn't look it up or AskMe or anything. I could have removed the jagged can edge that caused the problem, but then that would negate the use of bringing the can in in the first place.

By this time, we had run out of paper towels. Could we bring a dripping wound into the emergency room? I mean, we assumed that we could, but if it was that bloody, maybe we needed to call an ambulance? Could we just make a tourniquet? But then we would encounter the same problems of wasting time and stealing care from someone who might need it more. I felt we needed to start over and weigh our options.

I asked my wife this, but by then she was pretty uninterested in continuing the debate.

The funeral will be on Tuesday. I hope you all can make it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:10 AM on December 12, 2008 [86 favorites]

We make borracho beans just about every Sunday. They are delicious, a big pot lasts for a few days, and beer is an integral ingredient. What's not to like?
posted by patrick rhett at 6:13 AM on December 12, 2008

Beans have had the reputation as "poor food." (It may not any more.) At least, that's what we in New Orleans heard a few times from tourists.
posted by tcv at 6:21 AM on December 12, 2008

borracho beans

I love that the recipe calls for not just 12oz. of beer, but a 12oz. can of beer.

Actually, I don't usually like beer in my beans, but mostly because I don't keep the kind of beer that would be good in beans around the house. I do eat beans regularly, though. I've got some black beans for lunch today. With bacon.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:36 AM on December 12, 2008

Beer is no good for beans, you want to get yourself a nice, cheap malt liquor.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:38 AM on December 12, 2008

posted by P.o.B. at 6:41 AM on December 12, 2008

Mmm....15 bean soup. Quite the family favorite around here, and even better the second day. And no bean thread is complete with an homage to black beans from Ebro or Goya, doctored with a little mojo criollo a bay leaf and then served over rice.

Coño, chico. Ya tengo hambre.
posted by jquinby at 6:42 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Beer is no good for beans, you want to get yourself a nice, cheap malt liquor.

Oh god, WHY?

I tried that last winter with a 99c bottle of Schlitz Bull Ice, but it was a mistake. Forties aren't for cooking with, they're for getting so drunk that you forget all the shitty stuff you had to deal with that day, including how your 99c forty tasted.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:43 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

If the economy gets any worse, we may all be eating beans everyday....last week just for fun I bought five cans of different kinds of beans to see if I could make an evening meal with one can a day. I used Bush's beans for .88 cents a can, and because they had the prettier label. I had chili, with the chili beans, soup with the great northern beans, beanie wienies with the pork and beans, a greek salad type thing with the garbonzo beans, and a kind of salsa recipe that I ate with chips with the black beans. I had more variety that week than I'd had before and I'll bet I didn't spend more than 10$ for five filling nutritious meals including the small amount of chicken, turkey smoked sausage, salad greens and cheese to top the chile, pork and beans, and salad. My daughter used the leftover chili over a baked potato. It was an experiment but it is possible to eat on the cheap and not always be ramen noodles like I did in college. On the other hand, ramen noodles and beans, I wonder.....
posted by brneyedgrl at 6:49 AM on December 12, 2008

This is as good a time as any, I s'pose, to recite a bit of classic poetry from my childhood:

beans, beans, good for your heart
the more you eat, the more you fart
the more you fart, the better you feel
so eat your beans with every meal.

Now that that's out of the way, I have a bean story (sorry it's a bit long) that I'll share:


In 1976 I was travelling with a friend, name of Barry, up to the northeastern United States. Barry and I had both been born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and both had the urge to get out of there and see what the the wider world might have to offer. He was going to look at a college up in Vermont, and I was just along for the ride, figuring I'd check out Boston and New York City and wherever else I might find myself.

Now, growing up in the deep south should educate one on how to deal... diplomatically with certain types of people one is likely to encounter. I'm talking about folks not quite as tolerant, shall we say, of alternative lifestyles. What sort of alternative lifestyles? Well, like not cooking beans with meat (more on this later). Or dressing in clothes not appropriate for a day of deer hunting. Or, especially back in the year 1976, being a young man with long hair and that certain anti-authoritarian mindset that came with long hair back in 1976. And being Jewish (which my friend was). Or looking Jewish (which, apparently, I do, according to many folks I've met over the years). Anyway, when you're a little different down south, I guess you learn to act and speak with some degree of prudence and caution. Particularly, to not be too confrontational with that certain type of good ole boy who might think you'd look better with a pickaxe handle across your face. I'm talking about simple, basic survival skills which might just keep you from winding up pummeled, shot or tossed into the Chatahootchie River. This isn't quantum physics we're talking about. Like Tom Hagen said in Miller's Crossing, "it ain't complicated". We're talking mostly just a matter of not making too much noise when you find yourself in the wrong (red)neck of the woods: not letting that certain knucklehead you've been unfortunate enough to have encountered know that you are, well... smarter than he is. Just survival skills, really. Whether my travelling buddy Barry possessed such skills, though, remained to be seen...

We'd been driving all day, and we were hungry. We were somewhere in Tennessee: deep woods all along both sides of the highway. The sun was going down. We were in the proverbial middle of nowhere. An enormous illuminated word suddenly appeared on the horizon, towering above the pine trees. A SIGN. It was positively Biblical. It said, simply, "EAT". Which was exactly what we wanted to do. We took the next exit, and down the road a ways, there it was: a bland little pre-fab structure sitting humbly in the middle of a vast sea of gravel, the sea of gravel in turn surrounded by the deep, dark Tennessee woods. The gravel sea was, of course, the parking lot, made extra large to accomodate big trucks. One imagined truckers made up a big part of this particular dining establishment's clientele. But, there were no trucks at all in the parking lot. And only one other car besides ours, which you'd have to assume was the vehicle of the owner/operator of the eatery. We parked and went in. Sure enough, we were the only customers. We made our way to a booth under the not particularly welcoming gaze of a very thin (okay let's just say it, skinny) woman in a waitress dress. She looked to be about 40 or so. Despite the lack of customers, she looked tired. Maybe just tired of life. She did not appear to be a happy person.

She ca,e over to our table after we'd had a little time to peruse the menu. I ordered a burger or something. But Barry was vegetarian (uh-oh...) and had certain questions to ask about how the food was prepared. I could already sense impending doom. He asked her about several things on the menu, determining, one by one, the reasons why they were inappropriate for human consumption. The waitresses' eyes began to narrow. A certain kind of hate and/or disgust was clearly visible in her expression, to which Barry was entirely oblivious. Finally he came to the baked beans on the menu. He asked: "Do you cook your beans with meat"? She gave him a seething look and said "ALL beans is cooked with meat". To which Barry replied "I don't cook my beans with meat." At this moment I became painfully aware that Barry was not a practitioner of the basic Southern survival skills described above. And I was fully aware that this situation could get unpleasant. Or worse than unpleasant. Barry then ordered some toast, and as the waitress walked away toward the kitchen, he went out to the car. I saw him through the window, fishing around in the back seat, looking for something. He came back into the restaurant carrying a big jar of organic honey. This, of course, was for the toast he'd ordered. It was also an enormously bad idea. The waitress, stepping out of the kitchen, didn't miss a beat: from across the room she said to us: "Nuthin' frum tha OUT-side comes IN-side!" I suggested to Barry that he take the honey back out to the car. He did. The waitress had gone back into the kitchen. But the next person to come out of the kitchen wasn't the waitress. The next person was a male. Not a small, friendly, unthreatening-looking male. No. He was a big, unfriendly, threatening-looking male. He was holding a spatula. He stood there near the kitchen door, glaring at us, for what was fast becoming too long. I was by now becoming fearful for our physical well-being.

What exactly happened next is not crystal clear in my memory, but I know it happened very fast. I believe we hastily informed the nice man that we'd have to cancel our order and be on our way. Basically we got out of there, as fast as possible. And, as I recall, for the rest of our journey, we steered clear of deserted greasy spoon diners situated deep in the dark woods of Tennessee or any other state. I accompanied Barry all the way up to Vermont, and enjoyed hanging around the pleasant campus of the nice little hippie school he would be attending (where the beans were surely never cooked with meat...). Then after a few days I hitch-hiked down to Boston, promptly decided I would move there, and, about 3 months later, I did.

In the 32 years since then, I've cooked beans many, many times. Sometimes with meat, sometimes not.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:49 AM on December 12, 2008 [22 favorites]

All I'm going to say is that two of my friends and I won the Jackson, Mississippi, Red Beans and Rice Rice Festival cook-off in 1994 as representatives of Millsaps (after having won the qualifier there, and yes, I went to that Millsaps). We had many secret ingredients, but the most important (and probably the most obvious from anyone observing how completely hammered we were) was malt-liquor. This gave the delicacy of the beans and rice a heartiness that could not be matched by wattery or bitter beers.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:57 AM on December 12, 2008

This gave the delicacy of the beans and rice a heartiness that could not be matched by wattery or bitter beers.

This gives me an idea. Next time I make a yeast starter for brewing, I'll decant off the liquid--basically, unhopped beer--for making beans. I can't imagine that very-young beer could taste much worse than OE.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:00 AM on December 12, 2008

Some thinking required here. Anasazi beans are considered gourmet, and ancient, containing "75% less of the gas-causing carbohydrates" found in more common and cheaper beans that are cultivated for mass production. Bolitas beans are very good too, often mentioned in the same category. Highly recommended.
posted by Brian B. at 7:13 AM on December 12, 2008

Blues Beans , feeds two people, for two days, for two bucks. Via the ever cool Junior's Juke Joint.
posted by timsteil at 7:13 AM on December 12, 2008

Beans are truly the most magical of fruits.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:17 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Our host looks like he's been spending no small amount of time at Rancho Gordo himself.

I'm actually jealous, if that's all bean-related.
posted by rokusan at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

But 6 hours of soaking, then 2 hours of cooking?

Six minimum. Most folks just do it overnight. 12 hours won't hurt.

I imagine around 48 hours they're getting a bit funky, though.
posted by rokusan at 7:25 AM on December 12, 2008

I imagine around 48 hours they're getting a bit funky, though.

Some people like their beans a bit funky.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2008

I imagine around 48 hours they're getting a bit funky, though.

The Japanese have been eating Nattō for some time now.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2008

Blues Beans , feeds two people, for two days, for two bucks.

That's similar to what my family does. But they use dried white or pinto beans, a little bacon grease, and some onion cooked slowly together. Serve with cornbread and turnip greens.
posted by Tehanu at 8:25 AM on December 12, 2008

They have a version here actually but that seems like too much bacon grease. And the ketchup thing is just wrong.
posted by Tehanu at 8:34 AM on December 12, 2008


Beans, beans!
The musical fruit!
The more you eat,
The more you toot!

The more you toot,
The better you feel!
So eat your beans
At every meal!

Thanks you, thank you. *bows*

Gotta love the classics.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:52 AM on December 12, 2008

Rancho Gordo is a personal friend. I'm so proud he made the Front Page!
posted by trip and a half at 8:58 AM on December 12, 2008

What a coincidence! I just made toor dal! As a half-Peruvian, I need to mention frijoles canarios, also known as mayocoba or yellow beans. So tasty and creamy, especially when slow-cooked with a bit of strong-flavored meat, onions, garlic and ají
posted by LMGM at 9:05 AM on December 12, 2008

But 6 hours of soaking, then 2 hours of cooking?! I'm terrible at planning ahead, and I rarely cook stuff that requires 2 hours of cook time (unless it's something very special for a bunch of people). I guess I'm stcking to canned beans for a while longer...

There are two solutions to this.

1. Soak differently. Instead of just soaking for 6 hours or overnight, you can cut that down by boiling and THEN soaking -- dried beans in a pot with plenty of water, bring to a boil, boil the hell out of it for a couple minutes, then take it off the heat. You only need about two hours soaking time that way (plus, this seems to cut down on the enzyme in dried beans that can make people gassy). Be sure that when you get around to cooking them, you use fresh water.

2. Cooked beans freeze well, so you can sort of make your own "canned beans" -- take a bag of beans and cook the entire package, divvy it up among about 3-4 2-cup sized Tupperware containers (include the cooking water), and freeze 'em. Each container will have the same amount in it as your average can of beans, but they'll be home-cooked so you can control how much salt you use, and they're frozen so they'll keep, and depending on what you're making you may not even need to thaw them (if it's a straightforward bean soup recipe, you can just plop the bean-berg into the pot and let it thaw into the soup as it's cooking; you'll just have to tack a little extra simmering time on). It's also much cheaper doing it this way - a 14-oz can of cooked beans is about the same price as a pound bag of dried beans, but the 1-pound bag yields about 3 cans' worth.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 AM on December 12, 2008

I'm not sure what to think of this, so I'll resort to the immortal words of the muses:

Then from behind the counter, I saw a man
A chef hat on his head and a knife in his hand
He grabbed me by the collar and began to shout
"You'd better eat up all your beans boy and clear right on out"

posted by lekvar at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Rancho Gordo beans are both beautiful and delicious - how can one resist?
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2008

I always enjoy it when MeFites view a post as a creative writing assignment.
posted by spock at 9:41 AM on December 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

dinner music: "86, The Year Of The Bean"
posted by msconduct at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2008

Shameless self-link to my abandoned food blog: She Spills the Beans.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:11 AM on December 12, 2008

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
posted by swift at 10:25 AM on December 12, 2008

Invest in a pressure cooker. I've made refried beans from dried within an hour's time.

A pressure cooker will cook the beans lightning fast, but in my experience will turn your guts into a pressure cooker of painful gas just as quickly. Best to take your time with beans.

Also- try starting with dry Peruano (also called Mayo Coba) beans. They're creamy & delicious!
posted by squalor at 10:33 AM on December 12, 2008

Love it.

posted by eritain at 10:36 AM on December 12, 2008

posted by BeerFilter at 10:52 AM on December 12, 2008

You are all hurf durf bean-eaters!
posted by chairface at 12:46 PM on December 12, 2008

Mmm beans! Several years ago, my step-mother introduced us to Cowboy Caviar, which quickly became a family favorite. This is one good version, but there are a lot of good versions out there. The bad ones omit the cream cheese, which really pulls it all together.
posted by notashroom at 1:45 PM on December 12, 2008

posted by Smedleyman at 2:03 PM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Boil those dry beans for ten minutes, toss the water,rinse with cold water, toss that then refill the pot, bring it to a boil and let it sit for a few hours covered.
You will not fart at all and if you do it is your fault.
posted by Iron Rat at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2008

Ha. You'd think that Robocop's story is all fiction, but no, I actually did need stitches from a can of beans incident this week. Also I am not dead.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:56 PM on December 12, 2008

Darling, you've come back to me!

Is dinner ready yet?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Growing up we had been every single day.

Helping clean the beans at night was when the family got together. Everyone around the kitchen table, as soon as you finished your homework, you'd pick a fistful of beans from the bin, remove the pebbles and twigs, and throw them in the pot, to soak overnight.

Coming back from school next afternoon, you'd never know if you'd get frijoles de la olla, refried beans, frijoles rancheros, moros y cristianos (beans and rice), baked beans, or, when we were expecting visitors, my mom's Special Refried Beans.

The special requires the frying of some dried chiles (pasilla, ancho, cascabel; some for the color, some for the taste) in lard, in a specially made, very thick walled and shallow clay pot, followed by the removal of the chiles and the complete carbonization (canonization says the spell checker) of a tortilla in the boiling lard, which when removed will take with its charred remains the "lardiness" of the taste and the bitterness of the chiles.

All this just to prepare the lard into which you will re fry a pot of cooked beans that had extra onions and some bacon added to the broth. You will need to mash the beans into a paste by hand, while they are frying, using the cast iron bean masher. Take the clay pot of the fire, and if it was thick walled enough, the beans will continue slow cooking for hours, leeching flavor out of the dried chiles you just stuck halfway down into the beans, and softening the Cotija cheese you have sprinkled on top.

I have fond memories of coming home late at night in college, and finding the left over cold beans still in the clay pot and a few pieces of hard crusted sourdough bread on the table. Nothing beats a dinner of crusty sourdough dipped into cold beans at 3 in the morning.

Canned beans? Not so much.
posted by dirty lies at 4:04 PM on December 12, 2008 [7 favorites]

Oh, and beans are bad for math.
posted by dirty lies at 4:07 PM on December 12, 2008

You will not fart at all and if you do it is your fault.

My father referred to this process as "draining the fart water."

He also called a restaurant a "beanery" when I was a kid, and grabbing something to eat was "getting a bean." This always made me giggle, because I pictured buying a single giant bean to eat from a flat plate, with knife and fork. Turns out "beanery" is an nineteenth-century expression for what we'd call a greasy spoon.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:14 PM on December 12, 2008

I recommend the black bean soup recipe in Laurel's Kitchen. And don't bother soaking, as black beans don't really require it, IMO. It's my favorite [simple] bean recipe. If you try it, taste it before you add the lemon squeeze at the end, and then once the lemon goes in, you'll be amazed at how un-lemony but completely changed the flavor is.
posted by Lukenlogs at 6:25 PM on December 12, 2008

I always enjoy it when MeFites view a post as a creative writing assignment.

Well, my own lengthy assignment above was actually a cut-and-paste: first written a few years back. I did brush it up a little here and there, in an attempt to make it more presentable for the demanding Mefi readership. So, it was more of an editing assignment for me, then.

I just wish mine had been even half as entertaining as robocop is bleeding's. That was damn funny.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 PM on December 12, 2008

I sure as hell didn't come into this thread expecting the gems from robocop and flapjax.

posted by Ynoxas at 7:52 PM on December 12, 2008

Metaphorical viking.
posted by cthuljew at 10:09 PM on December 12, 2008

FPP main link is like, the worst video recipe I have ever seen.

"Add Salt".

posted by tehloki at 12:28 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Think It Over (a poem)
by Sys Rq

Of all the ways a man can die,
There is but one that makes me cry;
I've thought and thought of every fate,
And found no horror like a plate
Of beans.

Beans, the deadly legumes,
Produce the most revolting fumes,
The stench of which, a rotten smell,
Comes only from the bow'ls of hell
And beans.

Beans were there on your plate,
And now we all asphyxiate
Because, with wanton disregard,
You gobbled up and swallowed hard
Your beans.

Beans are not even food,
So never serve them to your brood;
No matter what a true meal cost,
'Tis cheaper than a holocaust
By beans.

Beans, the gas-t'roin' test:
In all it's rather surely best
To keep them canned, and save your friends
From violent and untimely ends
From beans.

Beans, the key to the grave
From whence Lord Jesus cannot save
The occupants' immortal souls;
He'll run and scream from all their holes
Like beans.

Beans, the alien seed:
The more you eat, the more they breed;
The more they breed, the bigger the burst.
Therefore, of all the fates, the worst
Is beans.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:54 AM on December 16, 2008

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