The Best Beans of Your Life

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If someone asks my friend Diana what I got her for her birthday this year, she’s very likely to answer: “Beans. I got beans for my birthday.”

That sounds like a negative thing, but in the case of Diana’s birthday dinner, it was entirely positive. These beans, like the beans Jack trades his cow for, were no ordinary beans: they were magic beans. Specifically: the Barefoot Contessa’s Baked Beans, which bake in the oven for six hours with bacon and ketchup and maple syrup and come out a deep rusty red and taste smoky, zippy and intense. In other words: the best beans of your life.

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Baked Red Kidney Beans with Chorizo

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Is cheating on a recipe like cheating on a test? I wondered that as I made the “Red Kidney Beans Baked with Chorizo, Chilli, Garlic, and Olive Oil” from Simon Hopkinson’s sequel to “Roast Chicken & Other Stories,” “Second Helpings of Roast Chicken.”

Simon, or Mr. Hopkinson (that feels more appropriate), calls for dried kidney beans in his recipe “soaked in cold water overnight.” I have a philosophy about recipes that call for dried beans soaked in cold water overnight: I hate them! Who plans a recipe the night before? I mean, ok, there’ve been times I knew I was having guests the next day where I made a cake ahead or marinated meat ahead, but I’ve never soaked beans ahead. I just refuse to do it; I use canned beans instead.

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Cranberry Beans

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My first experience with cranberry beans was a failed attempt at a soup (see here) where dried cranberry beans were cooked for an inappropriate amount of time, leading to a texture so unpleasantly undercooked it was like eating unpopped popcorn kernels. The years have passed, but the scars took a while to heal: I wasn’t too eager to cook cranberry beans again. Not even fresh ones. That is until I saw a beautiful mound of them at the farmer’s market and, knowing I was cooking a dinner for Stella two weeks ago, I said: “What the ‘ell!” (I had a British accent.) I bought the beautiful bag of beans you see above.

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Rachel Wharton’s Bodega Beans

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Monday night I went to a friend’s play reading that let out at 9:30. I was starved. I considered grabbing a bite (I was in the No Man’s Land of 35th and 8th Ave.) but then I decided I’d head home and grab a can of chickpeas from the bodega and make bodega hummus. (See here).

As fate would have it, though, on the subway I ran into the unmistakable, inimitable Rachel Wharton of The Daily News who I journeyed to Queens with this summer. Rachel has a degree in food from NYU, so I put her to the test: “Rachel,” I said, “I want to make a quick easy dinner with something I can get from my corner bodega.”

“Beans,” she answered.

“Beans?”

“Yes,” she continued. “Beans. I ate beans all through college. With some onion, garlic, or whatever you have, they’re delicious.”

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