Beans in a Bottle -or- Fagioli al Fiasco
We have a woodfired oven in our backyard. After many years of baking bread in the woodfired oven my husband built at Rachel's Bread, we knew we had to have one at our house. I had always dreamed of having one. Dreams do come true.
When we first started using the oven, we hosted a 48 hour marathon for friends and learned a little bit of what can be baked or cooked in it. But that's a whole other story... Of late, I have been trying to fire it up every Thursday. I am discovering how big of a fire to make and how much heat it holds and trying to make most efficient use of it. And that's how I decided to make beans in a bottle. I had heard of this traditional method of cooking beans but, in the back of my mind, I imagined a fiasco, our English word for complete failure, rather than the Italian word for bottle. How could a bottle bake beans without breaking? How would the beans come out of the bottle?
This method of cooking was used by Italian bakers at the end of the bread bake. While the oven was still warm, they would throw the ingredients in a bottle and use the leftover heat to bake the beans. And that's exactly what I did. I took a bottle out of our recycling bin and washed it out. I put about 2 cups of soaked beans in it, added a glug of olive oil, some peppercorns and salt, 3 or 4 smashed cloves of garlic, a sprig of sage and a sprig of rosemary and enough water to top the beans by a good two inches. I stuffed a folded piece of clean muslin in the bottle opening so steam could still escape while the beans baked, and once the oven was holding steady at 275 degrees, I gently popped the bottle in.
Four to five hours later, the woodfired oven had done its magic! The bottle was still intact, and the beans looked baked. I carefully pulled out the piece of fabric, and one by one, the beans came out, tender and juicy. And the oven had turned those simple ingredients into a flavorful dish.
It became the centerpiece for my birthday picnic along the water. Good bread, good cheese and good beans: what a way to celebrate!
Sometimes we have to learn to allow time to do its magic on us, just like those beans. I often am looking for a quick solution to a problem or the quickest way to work through pain or grief. But over and over, I learn that time will do its magic and, though nothing seems to be happening, underneath it all, in its quiet way, there is healing or an answer. The process is as much a part of the story as the outcome. Here's to slow cooking and to intentional living!