You know, like mac ‘n’ cheese, minus mac, plus beans ….
This recipe came about the way many recipes appear today – my daughter Abby went into the kitchen, saw a pot of beans on the stove, and said, “Do you know what would be really good? If you made the beans the way you made the mac and cheese. “And she was right. Partly. Because here’s the beauty of this dinner: the whole bechamel sauce thing that’s usually so important for making maca and cheese? I skipped that part. Cream? And skipped it. The multi-pot and pan thing? No.” This meal is being prepared one pot. Its connection to maca and cheese lies mostly in the crunchy garlic topping and pepper cheese mixed with beans – for me the best version of maca and cheese is always a combination of sharp cheddar, gruyere and parma. And lots of pepper.
Here are some ways you could apply this recipe:
- You’re trying to convince a young (or not so young!) Vegetarian that he loves beans
- You have obsessive macaroni and cheese in the house and would like to expand its horizons
- In the fridge, you have the chances and ends of cheese you’d like to spend – this recipe requires just one cup of cheese, significantly less than most mac and cheese recipes.
- You need something on the table quickly.
And lastly, you’d like it to taste something great.
Beans and cheese
I served this with the simplest chopped tomato salad – basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, ground red onion – but any simple lettuce (and maybe a piece of crispy bread) would be fine.
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of red pepper flakes
4 1/2 cups (or 3 cans of 15 ounces) cooked white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini, drained and washed
1/2 cup chopped gruyer
1/2 chopped sharp cheddar
1 cup panko prezle
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
leaves with 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Put the oven to bake.
In a large deep frying pan over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, onion, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the beans and cook until heated, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium, add the gruyère and cheddar and stir until melted. Take off the fire.
In a medium bowl, mix the panko with the garlic powder, parma, salt, pepper and remaining olive oil, reserved cheese and more salt and pepper. You want all the punk crumbs to be moist. Pour the punk mixture over the beans with your hands. You’ll feel like a lot of toppings, but persevere. You will want crushing.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 5 to 8 minutes until the crumbs turn golden brown. (Be careful not to burn it.) Remove the pan with an oven glove – the handle will be very hot! Leave for about 5 minutes to set.
Serve topped with fresh thyme.