This Sunday is son-in-law Chris’ birthday. We settled on Santa Maria tri-tip and the main course. Santa Maria-Style beans are a required side dish for this main dish.
The first two times I made this dish, I stayed fairly close to the original recipe for Santa Maria-style beans That recipe had a lot of ham in it. Since I am serving this as a side dish with beef, I felt that this was too much meat. I think that a bean dish should taste like beans—not the other stuff you add to the dish. I have discarded or limited ingredients that might overpower the beans.
Note: For a longer discussion of my philosophy on cooking beans, see my Santa Maria-Style beans II recipe.
I finally found a source for necessary heirloom Santa Maria pinquito beans. If you live in the South Bay Garlic World carries Suzie Q’s pinquito beans. For most people outside of California, your best bet to get the “real deal” is to buy them by mail.
Note: If you are impatient you may substitute small pink beans—these are just pink kidney beans sorted for size—pink beans or pinto beans. If you use these beans the cooking times may be longer.
One of the interesting differences of pinquito beans, besides its small square shape, is that it stays firm—even if you overcook it. It has a unique and pleasant flavor and is well worth going to the trouble of having it shipped to you. They also cook more quickly than larger beans and do not need to be presoaked.
After Dinner Note: Chris really, really, liked these beans. After his third, second helping, he asked me to take the pot away from his reach.
Karl’s Santa Maria-Style Beans III
1 smoked ham hock
2 large beefsteak tomatoes
2 strips apple wood smoked bacon
1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
1 stalk celery, diced finely
1 tsp. Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. dry mustard
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 lb. pinquito beans (small pink beans or pintos in a pinch), about 2½ cups
1. Put the ham hock in a medium pot and cover it with 8 cups of water.
Tip: The ham hocks have a thick layer of skin around them. Use a knife to cut the skin open in several places so the cooking liquid can get to the cartilage within.
2. Being the pot to boil, cover, and turn the heat to low.
3. Simmer for three to four hours and add water, if necessary.
Tip: Us a Japanese skimmer to remove any coagulated protein, scum, that has floated to the top.
Note: This releases the gelatin hiding in the hock’s cartilage. You want about 5 cups of broth left when you are done.
4. Remove the ham hock and set it aside.
Note: When it has cooled, reserve and mince any bits of meat finely. Ham hocks have very little actual meat on them, but they do have a little—mine had about half a cup.
5. Skim any excess fat from the broth.
Tip: Ham hocks are actually fairly lean.
6. Rinse, stem, and cut the tomatoes in half at the equator.
Tip: Scrape the seeds and jelly into a sieve over a bowl. Press the jelly through the sieve with a spatula and discard the seeds.
Note: Much of a tomato’s flavor lives in this jelly.
7. Lay the tomatoes cut side down on a lipped baking sheet and broil them for 10 minutes, until starting to pick up some color.
Tip: There are two ways to easily remove a tomato peel. You may blanch the whole tomato in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. However, if you also plan to deseed it, you will end up struggling to get a grip on a slippery tomato half. The second way is to cut the tomato in half, remove the seeds, and then to broil it. After a few minutes under a blazing heat the skins pop right off—sometimes literally.
8. Set the tomatoes aside to cool.
Tip: Do not discard any liquid that has been released.
Note: When they are cool, remove the skins, dice the tomatoes, and place them in the bowl with the tomato jelly.
9. Dice the bacon finely and sauté it in a 6 quart Dutch oven until soft, but not crisp.
10. Add the onions, celery, and salt.
11. Continue sautéing until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
Note: You are not attempting to brown any of the vegetables, you simply want to cook them to sweetness. While the Maillard reaction would increase the flavor of these ingredients, here you are trying for just the opposite effect. These additions should be a backdrop to the flavor of the beans. It should not be a fight for flavor supremacy.
12. Pull the vegetables to the edges of the pot and sauté the garlic in the hole in the center for 30 seconds more.
13. Mix the garlic into the onions and pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot again.
14. Add the tomato paste to the hole in the middle and cook until it is just starting to darken.
15. Add the tomatoes with all of its juices to the pot.
16. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the contents of the pot have thickened, 6-10 minutes.
17. Add the mustard, vinegar, any minced ham, and 5 cups of the ham broth to the pot and bring it to a simmer.
18. Sort and rinse the beans.
19. Add the beans to the pot and bring it to a boil.
20. Cover the pot and simmer on low for two hours.
Tip: I prefer to place my pot in a 350º F oven to prevent the risk of scorching.
Note: Stir and scrape the bottom of the pot every half hour.
21. Continue cooking until the beans are to your preferred tenderness, Depending on the age of your beans it may be another ½-1 hour longer.
Tip: If the bean broth seems a bit thin when the beans are tender, you can crush a few beans against the side of the pot to thicken it. If the broth seems too thick, add a bit more ham broth, if you have it, or water.
22. Serve hot.
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