Last week I had my first slow cooker success: Gigante Beans with Pancetta and Tomatoes, and I’ve been using my slow cooker every other day since to make some sort of slow-cooked bean dish. I love these flageolets straight from the crockpot with crusty bread, but it’s fun to cover them with breadcrumbs and bake them until they bubble, too.
- for the beans:
- 8 oz dried flageolet beans or white beans
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch red pepper flakes
- a few cloves garlic, smashed
- two onions, chopped
- a few sprigs thyme
- 2 oz. diced bacon
- parmesan rind if you have one
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- kosher salt to taste
- 1 cup finely diced carrots
- 3/4 cup finely diced celery
- fresh cracked pepper for serving
- shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano for serving (optional if you are making the gratin)
- toasted bread for serving (optional if you are making the gratin)
- for the breadcrumbs:
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- a small handful fresh thyme leaves (if the strands are soft, no need to strip the leaves)
- zest of one lemon
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- Place beans, bay leaf, pepper flakes, garlic, onions, thyme, bacon, parmesan rind, water and olive oil into your crockpot. Cook on high for six hours. Taste beans. They should be done or close to done. Add carrots and celery, salt to taste — two teaspoons of kosher salt does it for me, but start with one then add more as necessary — and cook for 1 more hour. Note: You also can add the carrots and celery during the last hour of cooking, especially with flageolets, which seem to cook faster than other white beans. As alway, check water level every so often, and if it looks low, add more.
- At this point, you can serve the beans with crusty bread, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and cracked pepper or you can spoon the beans into gratin dishes, cover with breadcrumbs and bake until golden. See below.
- Make breadcrumbs: Place the garlic, thyme strands (stems, if they are soft, and all), lemon zest, and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. Add the breadcrumbs and 3 T of the olive oil, and pulse a few times to moisten the breadcrumbs. The crumbs should be moist — add the additional tablespoon of olive oil if necessary.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spoon beans into gratin dishes or any shallow, oven proof dish you have — if you are serving a lot of people, you could make one larger gratin in a pie plate or something similar. Cover beans with a layer of breadcrumbs. Cook until golden, about 20 minutes. Let sit 20 minutes before serving — these beans retain their heat for so long.