Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans

I have been wanting to write a post about Rancho Gordo beans for a long time. They’re a brand of heirloom beans I first heard about at a foodie convention (International Association of Culinary Professionals annual meeting) in New Orleans two years ago. Steve Sando, creator of Rancho Gordo, was speaking on the topic of heirloom beans and foods native to the Americas. With his passion for flavor, heritage, and protecting unique varieties of “glorious, old-fashioned heirloom beans,” as the Web site says , I was instantly intrigued. It wasn’t until the next year at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market that I got the chance to buy some Rancho Gordo beans (they are based in Napa). I purchased “eye of the goat” beans, which were said to be good for beginners, and have an earthy, almost beefy taste.

Last weekend I got the chance to make these dried delicacies for myself. I had never worked with dried beans before so I was doubly excited. First, I soaked the beans in water for about six hours. Then, I drained them, placed them in a shallow pan, covered them with one inch of chicken broth, and turned the heat to a low simmer. I kept them mostly covered for the majority of cooking time so the liquid wouldn’t evaporate too quickly. Meanwhile, I sauteed a classic mirepoix(celery, carrots and onions) in olive oil, which I added to the beans during the last ten minutes of cooking along with a healthy dose of salt. The beans took around two hours to cook (I may not have soaked them long enough?). When I took them off the heat, there was a good amount of liquid left, which got mostly absorbed after they cooled. The next day, the remaining bit of liquid turned into a rich, dark brown sauce.

The beans were tasty! I enjoyed the process of soaking, cooking and sneaking samples to determine when they were done, and I definitely enjoyed eating them. However, at the end of the day, while they were a nice variety of beans with an interesting back story, they tasted like, well, beans. I’m sure a bean connoisseur would appreciate the subtleties in flavor compared to other beans, but unfortunately with my inexperienced bean palate, I wasn’t wowed, though I appreciated them for what they were.
However, I definitely enjoyed the simplicity of the cooking process, and the wholesome nutrition they provided. My bean exploration will continue, and I’m glad to say my first experience was with one of the best around.

2 Responses to “Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans”

  1. 1

    DJ B — August 21, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    I don't have much to say about beans except to toot, er, tout their cardiovascular benefits and to say how grateful I am that someone had the initiative to bake them at some point.

  2. 2

    nancy at goodfoodmatters — January 4, 2010 @ 10:15 am

    I have several Rancho varieties to experiment with—including some very pretty Vaqueros—black and white like the cows! And, I'm anxious to see how their flavors will vary. Seems like good hearty fare for these cold January days…

Leave a Comment