A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Help! What do I do with all these beans?

Oh dear, I'm feeling a little like Ann-Margret in the surreal champagne-and-baked-beans scene from the movie Tommy (particularly around the 4:05 minute mark):

Well, now.  That clip either amused and intrigued you. . .or left you needing a course of therapy.   I, on the other hand, after my latest baked-bean-without champagne scene, am left needing a little guidance — and so I am reaching out to my readers today.

Please give me your suggestions for creative ways to re-use the remaining 47 gallons of my pinto beans with ham hock.
This batch o' beans turned out to taste as delicious as they smelled. . .and as they looked in this picture, taken after they were finished cooking:

Well, I admit that they look a little morbid with those shank bones floating around in there like cast-offs from Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory, but otherwise, don't the beans look delectable?  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the shank contributed more than just flavor; a huge amount of meat fell off of the bones during the cooking.  I shredded the meat and distributed it throughout.  (Having never used a ham hock before, I had imagined that it would be like flavoring string beans with a slice of fatback, but a ham hock is actually more of a cut of meat than just a porky bouquet garni.)

We enjoyed the beans immensely for Monday lunch, when I mixed them with a little leftover pasta in order to tone down their hamminess.

And therein lies my quandary, readers — the overwhelming hamminess imparted to these beans by the shank I cooked them with.   It's a delicious flavor, but, I fear, not very versatile.  Normally, when I cook up a big pot of beans, I leave them plain or only mildly flavored with a little onion or garlic and maybe a bay leaf.  (And usually, a teaspoon of turmeric as a nod to my Indian ancestry.  In a past life, I mean.  What else could explain my intense fondness for coriander chutney?)

Plain beans, delicious in their virginal state, have the added advantage that they are amenable to incorporation into a wide variety of follow-up dishes which are very different from the original unadorned beans.   I've made them into bean dips, sandwiches, pasta casseroles, salads, and soups — and served them as an accompaniment to eggs and vegetable dishes.  In fact, whenever we go on vacation — where we almost always cook most of our meals myself, er, OURselves — I usually cook up a big pot of beans the first day in order to have all the follow-up possibilities available throughout the week.

(Anyone else out there into cooking on vacation?  I find it especially relaxing and enjoyable when I don't have anything else vying for my time and attention.  And besides getting to eat really well, we save more than enough off of restaurant prices to treat ourselves to great wines and bakery desserts.)

But back to my hammy pintos.  I've already decided on a variation for tonight's meal, which is to make a ham and bean burrito, which I'll blog about tomorrow.  But I fear that the strong smoky taste of these beans is going to be recognizable no matter how I try to disguise them.  Familiarity is likely to soon breed contempt.  When will Peter put his foot down, refusing to eat another incarnation of my slow-cooked beans?  Tonight?  Tomorrow?

Actually, Peter's non-fussiness around food makes him easy to cook for.  I should amend that to read "non-fussiness around good food," because the dude does put the kibosh on anything with off flavors, or unnatural ingredients, or too much processing.  In actuality, he is at least as finicky an eater as I am, but at least our finickinesses correlate pretty exactly.  Which makes for a darn good family life.  (That's not the only requirement, but it sure helps.)

I eagerly await your advice on porky-bean camouflaging techniques.  And so does Peter.


  1. Well, I would add broth to make it a soup, but that will not disguise the familiar flavor, so I will just say that they will freeze beautifully, so I would just save that smoky deliciousness for a simple frozen encore later.

  2. Hmmmm. First off I have never seen the movie 'Tommy'. I own the album and can sing most of the songs...but not the movie. Holy hell Ann! That is quite a beany sceney!!!! Ah..I am amused, intrigued and in need of therapy!

    Beans, beans the magical fruit..

    First off~How about freezing some of them for a later date when they will appear fresh and gorgeous. Woops I see that LAP recommended that as well. Frankly there is no way you are going to disguise that smokey flavor...it will just be:

    ~Omelette with spinach and ~smokey beans
    ~Pureed into a dip~there are those smokey beans again
    ~Soup with smokey beans

    It's kind of like trying to make a gorilla look hairless and small...it ain't going to happen.

    Freeze them and enjoy them another day.

  3. Everything LAP said. There's really no disguising the flavor.

    If you have any friends from the South, they might love to receive a gift of pintos with pork. A reminder of home for them.

    My mom always had a pot of beans going for my dad--butter beans, pintos, etc--and they were always cooked with pork. His favorite way to eat them was over cornbread, with diced onion sprinkled over that.

  4. Thanks for all the suggestions so far. I have already stuck a container of the beans in the freezer for thawing once my hock-hankering kicks back in again.

    Tomorrow's lunch is gonna be Daddy DaQ's favorite. I just have to remember to pick up some cornbread at WF in the morning.

    @Sassy: You mean this Ronco Shrink-n-Shave ape-grooming kit I just spent $8.99 on is a sham?

  5. What the HELL??? That looks like quite a movie! I think I'll just stick with my Audrey Hepburn musicals, thanks.

  6. Oh right! The beans! hahahaha I have no idea, other than freezing. I like my hamminess in moderation as well.

  7. What's wrong, Jacki? Don't you have a tradition of writhing amidst the beans up there in Saskatoon?

  8. When you thaw out those frozen beans, they will be mushy. So maybe plan to serve them over a bed of rice.

  9. Michael, uhhhhhh, no, I can't say we do. One *would* think it would be the backwoods folks who writhe among beans ... and the big city folks would choose caviar or the like for their writhing, but .... hmmmmm No. Just a big "no."


  10. Freeze them! Better to enjoy them each time than to suffer through any sense that you're eating the same dish over and over.

    These would be excellent served on thick sourdough toast with a poached egg on top, accompanied by a pot of strong tea.

  11. That serving suggestion combines a lot of my favorite things: sourdough bread, eggs, and tea. Now I can't wait to thaw those extra beans!