If you plan on making one recipe from my recent posts, please make this dish. It was utterly delicious, despite its rather basic list of ingredients. I used Tarbais beans from Rancho Gordo because I order my annual supply of pulses from them every October and am currently cleaning out the pantry to make room for this year's much anticipated order, but any white or navy bean from the grocery store will work just as well. Cooking times may differ.
When I planned on making beans for dinner, the temperatures were in the 80s, and I imagined braising the beans and serving them warm, drained and then tossed in a red wine vinaigrette, and topped with a salsa-like creation of cherry tomatoes, spring onion, mint and preserved lemon paste. Instead, since temperatures were in the high 60s, my palate pivoted to fall flavors and I am so glad that it did. These beans will demand a little love while cooking them, but the pot liquor that you will end up with with be well worth the tiny extra effort. And if you don't have parsley oil on hand, don't worry, just add a glug of good olive oil to the dish at the end and it will be just as delicious.
This recipe could have stretched to two portions, but I ate the entire thing in one go.
1 cup dried beans
1 medium-sized white onion
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/3 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
2 tsps olive oil
2 tsps dry Vermouth, vodka or white wine (optional)
1/2 tsp dried sage leaves
salt to taste
Place the beans in a bowl along with an eighth a teaspoon of salt. Cover by an inch with boiling water and set aside for at least a couple of hours, or until needed.
Dice half of the onion very finely, and reserve the other half for the caramelized onion garnish. Place the onion, garlic cloves and one teaspoon of the olive oil in a large pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the onions are soft and translucent and the garlic is starting to smell good. This will only take a couple of minutes.
Add the beans (including the water in which they rehydrated) to the pan. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for one hour without checking the beans or lifting the lid. When the hour is up, stir the beans and add more water if needed. Be very sparing with the water that you add - you don't want the beans to burn due to a dry pan, but you also do not want to drown them. I added water a quarter cup at a time (twice) to ensure that I ended up with a rich, unctuous broth.
Cook the beans for an additional half hour to an hour (this will very much depend on the size and age of your beans), checking every fifteen minutes to make sure that water levels allow for the beans to cook rather than burn. After 30 minutes, taste one of the beans to see if they are done, but continue to cook them until they are creamy inside with a tiny bit of give left to the external shell. This is also the time to determine if the beans are salty enough for you and to add a tiny bit more salt if needed.
Turn off the heat, stir in the chopped parsley, and set the pan of beans aside, still covered, while you make the caramelized onions.
Peel the remaining half of the onion, cut it into thin half moons, and add the sliced onion to a non-stick skillet along with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and the sage. Cook this over medium heat, stirring the onions every couple of minutes, until they become a deep, rich golden brown. As soon as they are the color that you desire, stir in the alcohol (if using) and stir to combine. This will add some additional stickiness to the caramelized end result. Keep an eye on the onions as they cook since it takes two seconds for them to go from luscious to burnt. It took me eight minutes to get my onions to the color they are in the image above and I caught them just before they went over to the dark side...
Once your onions are cooked, remove them from the heat and add salt to taste.
By now, your beans will have absorbed even more liquid and the resulting broth will be absolutely delicious while the beans will be the perfect temperature to eat. Ladle some of the beans and broth into a deep soup dish and top with caramelized onions. Drizzle some parsley oil or olive oil around the edges of the dish before digging in.
Make sure to remove the garlic cloves before serving so as to avoid any surprises. You can either discard them or, if you are eating this dish alone, with no chance of company, you can spread the cooked cloves on toast with a sprinkling of salt and eat this as an accompaniment to the beans.