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Bean Season

January 3, 2017

Seasons in the Capital Region are a funny thing. Recently, I’ve adopted a rather unorthodox way of looking at winters up here. Instead of thinking about it as one season, it’s really three. I wish I could take credit for this, but this idea is directly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut:

November and December aren’t winter. They’re Locking. Next comes winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not spring. ‘Unlocking’ comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They’re Unlocking.

Which means that winter has finally arrived. I have to tell you, I’m so much happier in general during the colder months with this revised outlook on the seasons.

Do you know what else gets me through winter? Beans.

After a week on the road, eating all kinds of fun meaty meals, it feels great to get back to a vegetable forward diet. Of course, I still have to finish the leftover meats the followed me back from Pennsylvania. There’s some knockwurst, a little bit more scrapple, and a few odds and ends of dried sausages. Oh yeah, and a few pierogi to boot. Sure the pierogi aren’t meat, but potato filled pockets of refined flour that are fried in butter aren’t exactly the basis of healthful meals.

But for the past two nights, I’ve enjoyed one of the dishes that will be a staple of our diet until local seasonal produce starts bursting forth from the ground. And that is Cuban black beans. It’s one of Little Miss Fussy’s favorite foods, and something that’s universally enjoyed by everyone around the dinner table.

As the kids get bigger and Mrs. Fussy’s metabolism grows stronger from her bad running habit, I’ve had to increase the amount of food prepared at dinner. So I’ve added a little Cuban inspired pulled pork to the plate. I toss it in an improvised mojo of olive oil, garlic, lime, and salt for the adults.

The kids still like it plain.

Raf was kind enough to send me his tried and true recipe for Cuban lechon. I’ve yet to make that, but it’s on the agenda once we eat through our stash of frozen pulled pork.

Yes, I freeze all the things.
Well, not all the things.

I freeze the things that can do well in the freezer. Long braised pork shoulder gets sliced into large boneless chunks, vacuum sealed, and put in the deep freeze. I imagine the long exposure to cold might affect its texture. However, I take this chunk of meat, and put it in a cast iron skillet on relatively low heat. The pork’s remaining fat renders out, and I shred the meat as it browns and crisps in its own lard. Holy hell that stuff is good. Especially with mojo.

But all black beans all the time would get dull after a while.

So I’ve also made a big batch of the most delicious split pea soup in the known universe. Chester’s smokehouse was the source of the meaty ham hock. But if you’re sitting around on a ham bone, or leftover ham from the holidays, this might be up your alley.

Eventually, I’ll make another batch of chana masala. But it feels like the family got burnt out on that one after too many pots of it last year. However, a simple ginger and garlic dal will still get Young Master Fussy excited.

My favorites aren’t universally loved by my family. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to justify a batch of black eyed peas or some red beans and rice. Chili with red kidney beans is a nonstarter with the kids who don’t go for tomato based sauces. And oddly white bean soup on the other side of the spectrum also fails to be enticing.

That doesn’t mean I won’t try to win them over with these as winter wears on. The unlocking is a great time to try new dishes. For now, we’ll stick to the favorites. And that’s just fine by me.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack C. permalink
    January 3, 2017 11:13 am

    I’ve always had issues making beans. I think since I’ve lived in places with really hard water, I can’t ever get them soft enough. I soak them overnight, cook them for 5-6 hours, and still get mostly crunchy beans. I guess I need a pressure cooker or something?

    • KingOfBeacon permalink
      January 3, 2017 1:02 pm

      I remember reading once in America’s Test Kitchen that canned beans were preferable to dry. Cleaner and more consistent texture and flavor. Every bean is essentially the perfect bean.

  2. chrisck permalink
    January 3, 2017 7:58 pm

    @KingOfBeacon — the reasoning for ATK’s preference for canned beans has to do with how old dried beans might be that you find in supermarkets. Old beans can be tough and never get tender, no matter how long you cook them. I encourage bean aficionados to buy Rancho Gordo beans where you know when they were grown and harvested. I’m a member of the Rancho Gordo Bean Club and get quarterly shipments of unusual heirloom beans. Yes, they are more expensive, but I’m a vegetarian and figure it’s still cheaper than meat.

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