When I visited my Chicago daughter last summer I tried the most delicious deli salad made with giant white beans. One bean filled up a teaspoon…gigante is the perfect name for them…and their texture is firm and meaty. I could image all sorts of dishes made with these beans and they were on my shopping list when I returned home to Portland. Wouldn’t you know…I couldn’t find them anywhere and pretty much forgot about them until I went back to Chicago a few weeks ago.
One of my favorite places to shop in the Chicago area is Pete’s Fresh Market in Oakbrook and I found the giant beans I was looking for there in the Mediterranean section of the store. I have since found them on Amazon if you are interested in trying them yourself. I made a big pot of beans for the holiday weekend in my slow cooker…why I don’t use that more is something I can’t figure out…and was knocked over by how delicious this simple recipe for bistro style beans is. And it’s one of those wonderful dishes that is even better the second day. On the first night I ladled up bowls of gigante bean stew and topped them with slices of roasted chicken breast and slices of crusty bread. The second night I didn’t bother with the chicken because all we wanted on our plates was more beans and bread.
Can you believe these beans? In the photo below the first bean is a dried cannellini bean, the second is a dried gigante bean, and the third is a gigante bean soaked overnight. And it gets even bigger as it cooks. Crazy isn’t it!
This recipe is so simple. Everything but the salt, pepper and shaved Parmesan go into the slow cooker and is cooked for around six hours. Then the beans are seasoned with the salt and pepper and cooked until tender, another 2 hours (approximately). The longer they simmer the better they are. You can turn the cooker to low at this point if the beans are nice and tender. Salt and taste…salt and taste…there is salt in the Parmesan cheese,bacon and chicken stock and getting the right amount of salt is important.
Parmesan cheese rinds are another thing I haven’t been able to find in the grocery stores in my area. Not saying they aren’t here. I just haven’t seen them. So when I saw a big display at Standard Market in Westmont…another one of my favorite markets in Chicago… I bought enough to get me through several pots of soup and more recipes of gigante beans. They add an amazing flavor and aroma to this dish and are worth seeking out if you make this recipe. This is an amazingly delicious dish and every ingredient is important so it’s worth it to use the best you can find.
I used 8 ounces of dried beans (soaked overnight in water to cover) and 4 cups chicken stock in this recipe and I didn’t have to add any additional liquid while the beans cooked. Next time I will add 5 cups of stock because we L-O-V-E-D the broth. With this much liquid you don’t have to worry about the beans drying out. The beans can cook over night and be ready the next morning or, if you put the pot on early they will be ready by dinner time. Be prepared for the most heavenly aroma greeting you when you walk into the house at the end of the day. It may knock you over too.
This delicious recipe is based on one I found at Alexandra’s Kitchen.
- 8 ounces dried Gigante beans or other white beans (soaked in water overnight, then drained)
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 3 garlic cloves,, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 14.75 ounce can diced tomatoes
- a few sprigs thyme
- 3 oz. thick sliced bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
- parmesan rind if you have one
- 4+ cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese for serving
- Place everything but the salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese into a crockpot. Cook on high for at least six hours. After the six hours add salt to taste. Continue cooking for 2 to 3 more hours. Be sure to check on liquid levels every so often. Add more stock as needed.
- Ladle broth into bowls over toasted bread or serve toasted bread on the side. Shave Parmesan cheese over top. Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you wish.