Braised Red Beans

by Meg Cotner on February 13, 2011

One morning this month I put some red beans in a bowl to soak while I was at work.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with them, but I thought I’d check the internet that day for some inspiration.  Let me tell you – when you do a search on “red beans recipes” about all you’ll find are recipes – endless numbers of them – for red beans and rice.  Now, I like red beans and rice, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t in the mood for that dish.

So, I decided to put together flavors that I know work well together – onions and carrots as a base, some thyme and red wine for flavor, extra virgin olive oil for additional richness.  I wanted to use some of my home-cured bacon, too, as beans and bacon are a perfect match.  The following recipe is what I came up with.

I loved these beans so much – they were a fitting winter meal.  Rich and creamy – you could serve them with some kind of whole grain, but they were delicious all by themselves.  They were also extremely tasty as leftovers.

One more detail – I made these on a weeknight after work, so they are doable as a weekday dinner.

Braised Red Beans

2 slices thick cut bacon
1/2 large onion, small dice
1 medium carrot, peeled, small dice
3/4 cup red wine
1 1/2 cup cooked red beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
10 springs fresh thyme
salt and pepper
grated parmesan (optional but recommended)

Soak the red beans in water and 1 tsp baking soda for 8-10 hours. Drain and rinse, and boil in fresh water until cooked through. Lightly salt them in the water. Drain and set aside 1 1/2 cups of beans (feel free to cook extra and freeze them for future use).

Set a large saucepan over medium high heat. Dice the bacon and put it in the hot pan with a touch of olive oil. Cook the bacon until it has rendered its fat and has started to become crispy. Add the diced onion and carrot and cook until they soften a bit in the fat. Add the thyme leaves and several pinches or turns of black pepper. Cook for about 30 seconds more.

Add 1/2 cup red wine and deglaze the pan. Add the red beans, olive oil and 1/4 cup red wine. Add the remaining 5 sprigs of thyme – whole sprigs, do not take off the leaves – to the beans. Add the water. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and let everything cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Remove the whole thyme sprigs and discard. Season the dish to your liking with salt and pepper.

Serve with grated parmesan.

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side.

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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