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What happened with my beans? Recipe post-mortem, pls (long)

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What happened with my beans? Recipe post-mortem, pls (long)

marcia | Jul 3, 2005 03:13 PM

I don't have much experience cooking dried beans and I'm looking for some advice on what happened here. I made Paula Wolfert's Red Beans w/Honey and Almonds from her Eastern Mediterranean cookbook.

Here's a rough sketch of the recipe, which, I think, omits nothing essential for this discussion.

Soak 1.5 cups of red beans in water to cover overnight. Drain, cover w/ 3 c. cold water, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook, covered for 1 hr or until beans are cooked and drain, saving cooking liquid. Cook assorted flavoring ingredients, then eventually add the beans, cook for 5 minutes, increase heat, add the reserved cooking liquid and salt and continue cooking, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated and about 25% of the beans have broken down to a puree (no info about how long this last step should take).

Here's what I did: Used 1 cup of beans and cut all other ingredients, including cooking water, by 1/3 as well. Put beans into soak before I went to bed, changed the water a few times, soaked them a total of about 18 hours. (Many thanks to everyone who answered my earlier questions about soaking beans.)

Cooked them for one hour w/ 2 c. cold water. At that point the texture was significantly firmer than canned beans and they had a very slight vegetal taste, but I figured they were cooked and that they weren't supposed to feel or taste exactly like the canned version.

When I drained them after the hour of cooking, I only got about a tablespoon of cooking liquid, maybe a tiny bit less. While the recipe didn't say how much cooking liquid I should have left, it clearly contemplated more than I had.

When I added the beans and then the liquid back to the skillet as directed, I obviously didn't have anywhere near enough liquid, so I threw in some white wine, because we had an open bottle. Would I have been better off with water for any reason? Anyway, I kept adding wine and cooking and adding wine and cooking (yes, at the temp given in the recipe) and after about 45 min to an hour and probably more than a cup of wine (I wasn't measuring, just pouring as required), I finally declared them done, because it was 10:10 already and we were hungry, dammit. A few of the beans has just started breaking down, but I was no where near 25% being a pureed texture. It tasted fine, but the texture clearly wasn't what I was aiming for.

It's Paula Wolfert, so I assume there's nothing wrong with the recipe. My best guess is that these were incredibly old, incredibly dried beans and that what I really needed to do at the end of that first hour of the first pass at cooking the beans, just add more water and keep cooking. I'm now assuming the slightly vegetal taste and the fact that they had absorbed practically all the water means they just weren't done yet.

So, how much like good canned beans (in taste and texture) should dried beans like after the first cooking? Should they be pretty soft? Should that sort of green vegetable taste be entirely gone? Anything else I should know or should have done differently?

Thanks!

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