Shelling Beans with Aromatics
Prep the Beans
Remove the beans from the pods. Put the beans in a pot and fill with enough cold water to cover by at least three inches. Season the water with salt, making sure it tastes pleasantly salty. The salt is important because it helps the beans retain their shape and helps infuse the beans with the flavors of the aromatics.
Add aromatics to the pot. This makes the difference between mediocre beans and truly tasty ones. The aromatics can include any aromatic vegetable, such as the basics like onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, as well as less expected ones, like fennel and leek trimmings. Use whatever you have. The aromatics should also include herbs; hearty, woodsy herbs like rosemary, sage, and a dried bay leaf compliment beans particularly well.
If you don’t mind picking the aromatics out later, you can just drop them into the pot. But if you have some cheesecloth, you can make a sachet that will be easier to remove later.
Boil the Beans
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. A gentle simmer is important because you don’t want to agitate the beans too much as they cook, lest they bounce against each other and break.
Cook the beans, skimming the surface of foam as needed, until fully tender and no trace of firmness or graininess exists, around 20-30 minutes. Add fresh water to the pot at any point if the level drops too low.
Cool the Beans
When the beans are done, take them off the heat and let them cool in their liquid. If your beans are in danger of becoming overcooked, add enough cold water or ice to drop the liquid temperature and halt the cooking.
Store the Cooked Beans
Store cooked beans in their cooking liquid, which keeps the skins from drying out. Cooked beans can be refrigerated for about 4-5 days.