Ever see the Monty Python sketch of “The Most Awful Family in the World” with the idiot son who does nothing but yell “I want more beans!” while lying on his back and shoveling them into his mouth? Well that’s me! I’m a fool for beans these days and I’ll tell you why: 1) cheap 2) easy 3) nutritious 4) delicious. I’m REALLY trying to stretch a dollar these days—duh, who isn’t?—but in my case, it's into something like a ridiculously long piece of silly puddy imprinted with a trippy face of George W. (the good one), and rice and beans is my ticket. So for the past couple of weeks I literally have had a pot of beans either cooked or cooking on the stove at all times, and I haven’t once had to revert to takeout at the end of a long foodless day (a bad habit of mine when I’m busy), too tired and weak to cook, cranky beyond redemption, and looking for a quick fix.
Beans are the perfect vehicle for flavor, and I’ll admit that I tend toward injecting mine with what might just be the peak taste experience—smoked pork. Come on, you know it is, my vegetarian friends. I respect your lifestyle choice, really I do, I’m just sayin’. I currently have a warm and fuzzy feeling about ham hocks and smoked pork neck bones, or better yet in a menange a trois with some legumes. There isn’t as much meat on the hocks, but my dog puts the rejected bits away in record time. He’s doubly psyched because I’ve taken to mixing some flavorful beans into the raw food + good grain mixture I make for him. Hey, if you’re gonna name you’re dog Lucky, it’s bad form not to back it up (especially after what he’s been through, poor guy).
Vegetarians and vegans take heart, there are so many ways to delish up beans that don’t involve animal sacrifice, as you well know. Beans with chilies, beans with curry, beans with every imaginable vegetable and herb. Counting calories? Do yourself a favor and drizzle on a bit of flavorful oil or even vinegar at the end, where it’ll do a slip and slide on your tongue. More flavor, less fat--Bob’s your uncle.
Annie was the first one to show me how to braise French lentils (any small lentils that hold their shape when cooked will do) in red wine, and I make these whenever I’ve got the remainder of a bottle sitting around, which is hardly ever because my motto is “drain baby, drain.” The result are legumes that are saucy not starchy, and who can resist a bowl of something hot, French and saucy? More beans! Rrrowr!
What’s your perfect food? Perfect cookbook? Perfect Python skit?
Although Carolyn Grifel has been cooking, baking, and devouring cookbooks since she was old enough to read, it took her four decades to finally devote herself to professional cooking. She received a degree from The French Culinary Institute in 2009, while working at Epicurious.com. Since graduating she’s been a chef for Sweet Deliverance, as well as the executive chef at the historic TA Ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming. She’s currently a private chef for a family of five in NYC, and the enchanted mother of a 10-year-old named Stella.