There’s no such thing as a pig roast without a plethora of sides. Lucky for me when I cook at Tunitas Creek Kitchen on Potrero Nuevo Farm I have a stunning array of seasonal produce to choose from including a beautiful selection of dry beans.
Cattle beans are some of my favorite because they are black & white and keep their color when cooked. They are great in stews and soups or served with a smokey-spicy light tomato broth as a full side dish. It’s hard to describe bean flavor but I think nutty and meaty would be my best effort. I used some of Farm Manager Suzie Trexler’s pickled watermelon radish, and carrot around the beans for color.
There are a lot of people out there who will tell you that soaking beans overnight isn’t necessary especially if they are freshly dried (two years is considered “fresh” for dry beans). I’m going to tell you the opposite: every time I have not soaked beans beforehand they take much longer to cook, the skins break, and they cause gastro-intesinal problems. Seriously. It’s also easier to see how much you are working with after they have plumped up. Guesstimating beans for a huge event is always a problem because some beans look small and then quadruple in size and others stay roughly the same. These cattle beans tripled in size.
I cooked these beans the day before the pig roast in a vegetable broth with thyme and bay leaf. To reheat I strained the liquid, brought it to a boil, and added more seasoning: ground dry guajillo chilis (you can sub guajillo powder), smoked Hungarian sweet paprika, cumin, tomato sauce, salt, and ground coriander to taste. Then I poured the ranchero flavored liquid over the beans and brought the whole pot to a low simmer before serving.
I was cooking for 75 people and needed burner space the day of but they can be made in one go. This was a big hit and an unusually beautiful one with the pickled veg.
A word of advice on cooking beans: do not salt your cooking liquid in the beginning of the process. It can change the texture of the bean and also the salinity can mysteriously disappear and then reappear. Beans will soak up the salt from the water and if you just taste the water (and not the bean) during the cooking process you will continue to add more salt. When the beans are soft enough to taste you will be disappointed. I lightly salt the bean liquid mid way through the cooking process and then adjust seasoning at the end.
More Pig Roast Sides and Pictures…
- 2 lb jacob's cattle beans, picked through to remove debris
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and shaved thin
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 3 tablespoons Hungarian smoked sweet paprika
- 3-4 tablespoons ground guajillo chili
- 2 tablespoons toasted and ground cumin seed
- 1 8oz can tomato sauce
Bean preparation: dump beans out on the counter or a large flat space and pick through to find any debris. Often there are small stones that must be removed. In a large pot add the beans and cover with cold water by 2-inches. Refrigerate over night or at least for 6 hours.
To cook the beans: in a large stockpot sweat the mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery) until just soft but not browned. Add the pre-soaked beans (with their liquid) and make sure the beans are covered by at least 1-inch. Some people will tell you to use fresh water for the cooking as opposed to the soaking liquid but there will be a loss of flavor and nutrient content and there is no proof that this soaking water causes 'tummy trouble'.
Bring the beans to a simmer and add bay leaf, thyme, and garlic. Simmer for 20 minutes until just al dente and add the rest of the seasoning including tomato sauce and salt to taste. Beans are cooked when they are soft all the way through. Serve in a bowl and garnish with pickled vegetables if desired.