Braised Cannellini Beans
A day (or 3 as it turned out) filled with Christmas decorating plans leaves not so much room or time for cooking and nothing could be easier for a comforting hearty dinner than oven braising beans on a rainy, chilly winter’s day and recruiting grill master #2 to stand in the cold for the great winter outdoors relatively short grilling experience.
A hot bowl of beans with grated cheese on top, enhanced with a side of grilled homemade sausage is just the ticket… serve with a good loaf of warm ciabatta bread slices to sop up the sausage and bean juices and call it dinner. Notice the lack of bread on my plate, I ate mine while I was slicing the sausages stealing as much of the juice as I could…So I only sliced two sausages no one ever noticed the missing juice!
I can seldom find cannellini beans in our stores, but in one quick grocery cart drive-by in the rice and grain aisle I spied one lonely bag destined for the braising pot. Yes, I did an overnight soaking of the beans, but I also use a quick soak recommendation from time to time with other beans that would also work for the cannellinis.
For 1 pound of soaked cannellini beans:
Add about 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO to a braising pot for the sauté
1 large onion, medium diced
3 small carrots, medium diced
2 ribs celery, medium diced
3 cloves chopped garlic
½ cup diced pancetta
3 small fresh bay leaves
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 sprig oregano, and fresh rosemary
4 ounces sun-dried tomato bruschetta jar or homemade
½ cup red wine
4-5 cups chicken or beef stock, heated
Pinches of red pepper flakes
Cheese rind to add to the pot of beans
Salt and pepper
Fresh crusty bread
*Additional crispy pancetta to top the beans
Preheat oven to 325°
Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat; add diced pancetta and sauté for a few minutes (it doesn’t need to get crispy), add the onion, celery, carrots herb sprigs and bay leaves and sauté, stirring for about 4 minutes, just enough to soften a bit. Toss in the garlic for the last ½ minute deglaze pot with the wine; add the sun-dried tomatoes, 4 cups stock and beans. Reserve 1 cup stock in case you need to add more during the braising time. Season and add pinches of red pepper flakes and the chunk of cheese rind. Bring to a boil turn off, cover beans with crumpled parchment paper placed close to the beans but not smooshed down completely, then cover with lid, braise for 1 hour to 1 and ½ hours, checking liquid half way through the cooking time add more if necessary. My beans were to my liking at 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove most of the beans to a serving bowl with a slotted spoon and pick out the herb stems and bay leaves. Serve hot with grilled sausage.
(I intentionally add the last cup as I smash part of the cooked beans (about 1 cup) into the liquid after removing most of them to a serving bowl.) This thick broth is stashed and used for pasta fagioli for another night.