SERVES 4 TO 6
TO PREP 45 MINUTES
STORE UP TO 3 DAYS
TO FINISH 1 HOUR
Why This Recipe Works: The first step in cooking dried beans to tender, creamy perfection is usually soaking them overnight in salted water. With this built-in make-ahead strategy, bean stew seemed like a perfect choice to stash in the fridge for a busy weeknight. We thought it would be easy to build our stew base, soak the beans separately, and then marry them together when reheating. However, a big drawback to this method was the amount of time the soaked beans needed to fully cook—upward of two hours—which was longer than we wanted to spend reheating a make-ahead stew. To get perfectly cooked, richly flavored beans and a quick reheat, we needed a different approach. We tried partially cooking the beans on day one to shorten the reheating time, but that gave us inconsistent results—some beans were undercooked and others blown out and broken apart. We found the trick was to add baking soda, which helped to break down the cell structure of the beans, resulting in tender beans in less time. Swapping the traditional cannellini beans for smaller navy beans gave us more consistent results. To finish the stew, we stirred in chopped kale for the last 15 minutes of simmering, giving it enough time to become just tender but retain a hearty texture.
If you can’t find pancetta, you can substitute 3 ounces of bacon.
10 cups water
8 ounces (1 1/4 cups) dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
4 ounces pancetta, chopped fine
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
TO FINISH AND SERVE
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces kale or collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sprig fresh rosemary
TO PREP1. Refrigerate 2 cups water. Bring remaining 2 quarts water, beans, 1 tablespoon salt, and baking soda to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer briskly for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse beans in colander. Wipe pot clean.
2. Heat oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add pancetta, onion, and celery and cook until pancetta has rendered and vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir in broth, bay leaf, and drained beans. Stir in chilled water to finish cooling.