A passion for food + fashion

Vaquero Beans

In Food on April 28, 2009 at 8:15 am


Sorry for the delay – got home from work on the late side last night, so here I am a day late with my bean odyssey. At a crazy good dinner party on Saturday night, my friend Katie gave me a bag of  these heirloom Vaquero Beans from Rancho Gordo. Actually Katie was pretty clear that they were “on loan,” so I’ll be hitting up my sister to bring a few replacement bags from Napa Valley next time she comes down to visit. First off, can we agree that they are stunningly gorgeous? Like an Appaloosa horse. Love! So to get going, first I rinsed them in super cold water. Then I put them in a pot and covered with an inch of water and soaked for six hours. Yes, that’s right. Six hours.


From there, I consulted Rancho Gordo founder Steve Sando’s instructions for cooking beans. (Note: Sando has an awesome new Heirloom Beans cookbook, click HERE to order.) Per Sando’s advice, I made a makeshift mirepoix with onions, carrots and garlic I picked up at farmers market sautéed in olive oil – makeshift because I realized too late I had no celery. C’est la guerre. But basically all you need is water or broth and some sort of fat (I used olive oil, but freshly rendered lard or bacon fat would be mighty nice). I added my pseudo-mirepoix to the beans and their liquid, brought to a boil for five minutes, and then slow cooked on super-low heat for several more hours. Check out that amazing, rich liquid they give off. So flavorful!


Meanwhile my husband grilled red, yellow and orange bell peppers along with Maui sweet onions, and we tossed with the beans, fresh thyme and some crumbled French feta, which we picked up from Laurent Bonjour—the “French cowboy ” with the cheese truck at the Larchmont Farmers Market (which conveniently works with the whole vaquero angle). The dish was as delicious as it was beautiful. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Mr. Foodinista knows his way around a grill!


And I know my way around a corkscrew, which I pressed into action to open a cold bottle of crisp, minerally 2007 Domaine Leflaive Mâcon Verzé—a Chardonnay from the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy and a great value at $27. It was made by one of my very favorite winemakers in Burgundy, Pierre Morey (a true pioneer in biodynamics, not to mention one of the most gracious winemakers I’ve ever met) before he stepped down last year as Leflaive winemaker to concentrate on his own label. Here’s to you, Pierre!


NOTE: We were in the mood for white wine (the White Burgundy was lovely; a Sancerre or Vouvray from the Loire would have been even better with the tangy feta). If you prefer a red, a nice cru Beaujolais would kill with this combo!

  1. I have to say I was against using lard in my cooking for ages until I took cooking classes in Mexico last summer and the lard in those black beans were hella good!!

    I can’t wait to try your recipe! Hitting up Rancho Gordo right now!!!

    • LARD RULES!!!!!!! where did you take cooking classes?

      • http://www.lavillabonita.com/

        Here’s the link to La Villa Bonita where I took my Mexican cooking classes. About 1.5 hours from Mexico City in a little town called Tepoztlan. Amazing experience! You cook and eat the entire time then on the last day you hike up a mountain to a temple to burn off all the calories!!!
        A trip I would recommend post swine flu madness!

  2. lard is fattening and disgusting…

  3. lard is FAT, not fattening. but… delicious!! i found some white lentils–yes, like blonde–at surfas. will let you know how it goes. these look GOOD. i love stewed shell beans spooned over sliced heirloom tomatoes with shaved parm on top. it is summer!

  4. Hi there, can you tell me, how much liquid did you use? from the look of the first photo of the beans, it looks like they are immersed in cooking liquid, but the second image with the red/yellow bells looks as if you drained the liquid and treated the beans as almost a salad type dish. Do you have a proper recipe for this? My beans are soaking for an hour as I type this.
    Thanks so much! BTW, I am using about 1/4 cup of diced “Salt Pork” for my dish. Thoughts?

  5. Hi Gerry – The method I use is detailed above – cover your beans with an inch of water and soak for six hours. Then put beans and soaking liquid into a pot and make sure they’re covered w/ about an inch of water (add more if necessary) and add your mirepoix to taste, plus your salt pork (sounds delicious) and bring to a boil for five minutes, reduce to simmer. If you need to add more water, add hot water from a kettle. Simmer until tender on very low heat. I usually let them go for another 2 1/2 – 3 hours. The liquid will absorb so no need to drain. If you are adding any acid – like lime juice or tomatoes, wait to add at the very end. Hope this helps! Can’t wait to hear how yours turn out!

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