Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dried Lima Bean Casserole w/ Ham and Potato

This is a winter meal if I ever had one, and beans are the most frugal of foods. It doesn't look like much and at first, I wasn't even going to blog about it, because it was too dry and bland. However, I thinned the leftovers out with some water and portioned them for freezing and, when I ran out of most everything else, I ate some. It was good. It just needed some more time, water, and reheating. Stewed things are like that sometimes. Borrowing a little from a French cassoulet, I made the beans in a crock pot, microwaved a potato to slice up and stir in, and baked in a skilled w/ some torn-up bread tossed in butter. I used a bouquet garni of leek, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary and whole peppercorns but the directions below just call for throwing in the herbs and grinding in the pepper at the end.

Serves 5.

Ingredients: 1 lbs dried Lima beans (or any white bean), 1 leek, 1 onion, 1 spear celery, one carrot, 1/4 lbs ham, 1 12 oz can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1/2 dried), 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried and crumbled if whole), Add salt and pepper and olive oil to taste after beans are cooked and one baked/microwaved potato, sliced w/ skin removed.

  • Pick through beans in case of rocks (I really did find a rock once), rinse and place in a pot.
  • Pour in enough water to that there are two inches above the beans (if possible, use filtered water - the minerals and such in tap water can make the beans harder)
  • Bring to a boil, turn off heat and rest one hour.
  • Drain beans, rinse and return to the pot (or transfer to a slow cooker)
  • Dice all the other ingredients and add to pot (except salt, pepper and potato)
  • Add 1 cup filtered water to pot
  • Cook on medium heat until beans are soft, stirring when neccesary and adding a little more water if needed*
  • Add potato
  • If desired, top with fresh bread chopped finely or pulsed in food processor and tossed with melted butter and/or olive oil. If you used a dutch oven or a shallow slow cooker insert to cook your beans, you can transfer it right to oven. Otherwise, use an ovensafe skillet, pie plate or casserole.

*Beans may soak up more or less water depending on exact heat, the tightness of the lid, humidity and age of the beans.

Note: Slow cookers have apparently come a long way and have all sorts of settings and timers. Mine is from the 70's, however (I found it its original unopened box in a South Philly Goodwill years ago) and has three settings: low, high, and "autoshift". The latter gets to the highest temp than cycles to low so you don't have to stir. The low setting does not work for dried beans.

Frugal Factor: $1.50 for the beans, $1.25 for the ham (I bought a whole spiral sliced bone-in ham for $3.99/pound at Thanksgiving and froze individual portions of ham), $1 for the leek, $1 for all the other vegetables. The herbs I grow, but dried would be about $0.25. That's $1/serving. Yup, beans are cheap. I like beans.

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