I’m a little fuzzy on where the line between soup and stew is or on what basis it is drawn. I do know that it’s hard to go wrong cooking pork and beans together. Here they are joined by sweet cubes of butternut squash and only a few other ingredients to create a hearty and heartwarming bowl that’s perfect for cold Minnesota winters or pretty much any other day of the year, anywhere. In terms of flavours I would say that it’s Mexican-inspired and I’d hazard that if you were served this in a contemporary Mexican restaurant you wouldn’t think it was out of place.
As with all my bean cooking, this employs my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. I made this with Alubia Blanca, a small white bean from his Xoxoc Project, a very worthy endeavour. I think the white beans give the dish a nice range of colours but you can make it with any other bean with similar texture: for example, Yellow Indian Woman.
- 1 lb Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans (or similar), rinsed
- 1-1.5 lb pork bones with some meat attached
- 1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 tspn cumin seeds
- 3-5 dried chile de arbol (or similar dried red chillies)
- 1/4 tspn dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
- Heat oil in your bean pot and add the cumin seeds.
- Once the cumin seeds split add the dried chillies and after about 30 seconds the onion and garlic.
- Saute over medium heat till the onions have become translucent.
- Add the pork bones, raise the heat and saute till you’ve got some browning going.
- Add a lot of water (let’s say 6-8 cups), bring to a boil and keep it going for a while till all the blood and other brownish scum from the bones has emerged. Skim this all off.
- Add the beans and keep on a high boil for another 5-10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and cook till the beans are almost done (just beginning to become tender to the bite—this happened for me at the 2 hour mark yesterday).
- Now add the squash and continue cooking, covered till the squash and beans are done.
- Add the salt and oregano, cook for another five minutes and serve with a wedge of lime on the side.
- Yes, I did not soak the beans beforehand. Steve insists they’re better this way and while all my history militates against it I have to admit the texture of the beans was better, and it saved having to remember to soak them the night before. As to whether you can do this with dried beans that are not as “fresh” as Rancho Gordo’s, I don’t know.
- Sorry to be vague about the amount of water. You want to end up with a few inches above the beans once you’ve added them and the final texture of the liquid (whether soupy or stewy) is entirely up to you. Remember that some of the squash will begin to melt into the broth and thicken it at the end, so don’t worry if it seems like you’ve added too much water to start.
- Pork neck bones would probably be best; in this case I used bones left over from the last time I cubed up a bone-in pork roast.
- If you’re making this for other people you could probably pull the bones out of the pot at the end, shred the meat off and add it back. When making for yourself and family, don’t bother: just pull some meat off for everyone while serving.
- If you want to make this vegetarian you could leave out the bones but I’d suggest using the steeping water from reconstituting dried shiitake mushrooms to add savoury depth in that case.
- Don’t forget to add a big squeeze of lime to your bowl.
- I guess you could eat this with tortillas but just a big bowl of it by itself is a grand meal.
This looks as delicious, as usual.
Just one small correction. I don’t insist on non soaking. I don’t care.
What bugs me is people insisting you have to soak. You don’t. You can. We need to get over ourselves.
Soaking does make them cook faster but you’ve spent all that time soaking, so where was the saved time?
Changing the soaking water is known to help digestion but it’s now thought to be a myth and you are potentially leeching out vitamins and flavor. You can see this in action with dark beans.
My technique is to boil the hell out of the beans for 15 minutes when you start, then lower the heat to the gentlest of simmers and cook them until done. If you’re in a hurry, it can be a more vigorous simmer but the best beans are done low and slow.
Thank you for your very kind attention!