How the “trend” of sourcing well has changed, cooking beans in the fireplace, and embracing seasonality to the fullest
“My cooking has been about wanting to reflect the seasons and the changing of the seasons. The rotation of the earth and the tilt of the earth is where the seasons come from, and so as an urban dweller, the way that I stayed in touch with what was happening on the planet was by going to Union Square [Greenmarket]. And seeing that variation — what was coming in, what was going out, what was no longer available, and building menus, cooking for myself, and cooking for others.”
— Peter Hoffman
Peter ran the wonderful Savoy restaurant in Soho — it was a real go-to for me — and other restaurants as well, but is even better known for bringing real farm to table food to New York City restaurants. We talked about that, and we talked about Peter’s book, What’s Good, and we talked for a while about culinary “fashion shifts,” which is an interesting phenomenon to consider.
Please listen and subscribe, and please review on Apple if you’re so inclined. Peter’s recipe for Beans al Fiasco, which was featured on the podcast, is below. Thanks for listening, and reading.
Fireplace Beans (Beans al Fiasco)
Makes: 4 side servings
Cooking in the fireplace doesn’t require any fancy equipment. This recipe can be done with a mason jar in any living room fireplace. Lacking a fireplace or a campfire, the beans can be cooked in a covered pot but it is less dramatic and magical. The slow, even cooking produces wonderfully unctuous and flavorful beans. It is fun to watch them cooking before your eyes. The method depends on utilizing the heat from a mature but not roaring fire. Traditionally this is done in a wine bottle (fiasco in Italian) but using a Mason jar dispenses with the issue of getting the beans out of the narrow neck of a bottle. Serve with grilled meat and wilted greens. I prefer to use Sorana beans but scarlet runners, cannellini, or Jacob’s cattle varieties will all make a great pot of beans. Try to avoid the white navy bean as it is an inferior bean in flavor and texture. — Peter Hoffman
1 cup (about 185 g) dried beans, soaked overnight
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 (5-inch/12 cm) sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/3 cup (75 ml) good olive oil
Combine the beans, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, pepper, salt, olive oil, and 2 ½ cups (600 ml) water in a (1-quart/960 ml) Mason jar. Place the lid loosely on top—steam needs to be able to escape during the cooking process. Set in the hearth of the fireplace 8 to10 inches (20 to 25 cm) from the active fire. Feel with your hands that this distance is hot but not unbearably so. Rotate the jar every 15 minutes for the first hour to ensure even cooking. You will see the beans begin to simmer. After 2 hours check the beans to see if all the liquid has been absorbed. Taste them to see if the beans are fully cooked. Add more water if necessary to complete the cooking. When the beans are tender, they can be served immediately or allowed to simmer ever so slowly in the fireplace as the fire dies down. Long, slow cooking produces a caramelization of the bean against the jar walls that is delicious and a texture that is more like a rough purée than brothy beans.
— Recipe courtesy Peter Hoffman