Cooking from the Larder

Looking at the calendar and finding myself on three trips in the next six weeks has made me a bit more careful about money these days. In times like these, I start creating and making meals with what I have in the cupboard and freezer. I don’t know about you, but I tend to have the same dried beans and grains in my cupboard for months, only using them when I need them for a recipe, instead of using them in every day cooking.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark of the New York Times, had a recipe and a tutorial video for braised beans in red wine. I call these soup beans; long-cooked beans that still stand up after a long braise with a faint bacon and deep, red wine flavor. It was perfect, a few ingredients made a huge pot, enough for several meals and lunches. And best part it is incredibly inexpensive, because most of the ingredients you already have on hand.

The original recipe calls for pinto beans, but I still had in the cupboard some Jacob’s Cattle Beans I picked up last fall, so I used those instead. You can soak the beans overnight, or in my case, for the day, but make sure it’s for at least 8 hours. Some diced bacon, carrots, onions, and celery, some reduced red wine in the end (you can, of course, leave this out if you prefer), and you’re done.

Here is a tip from me: Don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink yourself. Whenever I need cooking wine, I go to the wine section of the supermarket and pick out a less than expensive bottle for cooking. Don’t ever use what is called “cooking wine,” it is filled with lots of salt and preservatives.

I served this over baked polenta, but I think cooked polenta would be even better; the creamy corn mixed with the beans and red wine would be comfort in a bowl. You could also serve this over noodles, mashed potatoes, or just by itself. It’s still cold outside, so a bowl of this will make you warm and fill you right up.

Clark cooks like I do, throwing stuff in a pot, with no real measurements. I watched the video and just took notes. Below is how I made it. Of course, you can always add more veggies if you like; the dish won’t suffer because of it.

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Braised Beans with Red Wine
Recipe adapted from Melissa Clark of The New York Times

1 1/2 cups pinto beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
2 slices of bacon, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small rosemary stalk
2 cups of red wine, reduced to about  ⅔ of a cup

1. In a warmed Dutch oven, add the chopped bacon and cook until done. Remove from the pan, and place the bacon on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the grease.

2. You shouldn’t have a lot of bacon grease left in the pan, but if you do, drain and leave about a tablespoon or so. To the pan, add the carrots, onions, and celery, cook until just soft.

3. Meanwhile, drain the soaking beans over a colander and rinse. Add them to the pot of veggies, add the bacon and rosemary, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour or until the beans are soft, but not mushy.

4. While the beans are cooking, take another saucepan and add 2 cups of red wine. Bring to a simmer and cook until it is reduced to about ⅔ of a cup, about 20-30 minutes, depending on your stove.

5.  When the wine is finished reducing, pour it into the beans, and bring the beans back to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Cook’s Note:
This is totally self-serving, but I just wanted to note that this week marks two years of “My Vermont Kitchen!” Through more than 100 recipes, you’ve been cooking with me through the seasons, seeing me through successes and failures, and (hopefully) been enjoying the journey. This little experiment of bringing my cooking and recipes into your kitchen has been wonderful, and I hope you are enjoying it as much as I have. So, cheers! Here’s to another year of cooking!