This last fall we harvested about a pound of dried beans from our Scarlet Emperor vines. The beans had some pretty fanciful looks, with their purple and black speckles, and I had read that such beans were unparalleled in taste. With just one pound of our pretty beans to enjoy, they seemed to call for some sort of special preparation. I stumbled upon this amazing recipe for runner beans in red mole in a Rick Bayless Cookbook, tried the recipe with my precious beans, and was very pleasantly surprised. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. My husband and I practically licked our bowls clean, both gushing about how delicious the dish was!
I’ve never much been a fan of mole, often finding it to be cloying and overly rich, but this recipe was equal measures complexity, earthiness, and savoriness. The perfect foil for what turned out to be some of the most delicious beans I have tasted. Incredibly creamy with a fine texture and equally fine flavor, they remind me of my favorite Gigante beans. We will definitely be drying a whole lot of these beauties this year. No runner beans in the pantry? This recipe is very good prepared with Ayocote, Gigante, butter beans, or any other large, creamy-textured bean. I recommend serving these beans over rice, adorned with a few slices of avocado and a bit of sour cream. A little cilantro brightens things up as well.
Runner Beans in Red Mole
Adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen
2 cups dry scarlet runner beans, soaked in plenty of water for 24-48 hours, and drained
1 large (or 2 medium) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
6 ounces tomatoes (I used frozen pear tomatoes from last year’s garden)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp sesame seeds
generous 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (must be very fresh and flavorful)
generous 1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tbsp chopped dark chocolate
2 cups chicken broth, preferably home made
2 tbsp lard or vegetable oil
scant tbsp sugar
salt, as needed
Place the soaked beans in a medium sauce pot with enough water to cover by a few inches. Bring the water to a boil then drop to a simmer. Cook the beans until tender, 2-3 hours, occasionally adding more water as needed. Add about 2 tsp salt when the beans are almost done.
While the beans are cooking, prepare the mole sauce. Place the garlic cloves in a small pan and bake, uncovered, in a 325 degree oven until toasted and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat for several minutes. Toast the chiles on both sides, pressing the chiles against the skillet for a few seconds. The chiles should crackle a bit and might emit a wisp of smoke. Take care not to scorch them or the mole will be bitter. Place the toasted chiles in a small bowl and cover with very hot tap water. Add the sesame seeds to the skillet and toast until golden and fragrant, stirring constantly. Set aside.
After the chiles have hydrated for about 30 minutes, place the chiles, toasted sesame seeds, peeled roasted garlic cloves, tomatoes, cinnamon, oregano, black pepper, chocolate, and 1 cup of the chicken broth in a blender. Blend the mixture until smooth, then pass through a sieve into a small bowl. Heat the lard or oil in a dutch oven until a drop of the sauce sizzles aggressively. Add the sauce all at once, being careful not to splatter yourself. Stir the sauce constantly, cooking until it has reduced by half or so and darkened in color. Add the cooked beans and remaining chicken stock, as well as the sugar and salt to taste. Simmer the beans about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Adjust seasoning and enjoy!