Being a West Texan, I’m about as close to an authority on what a bean should taste like as you can find. Sometimes, though, a pot of pinto beans just won’t do it for you. You need something different.
White beans and tasso is an excellent alternative. In fact, secretly, cannellini beans (white kidney beans) are my favorite bean. Cannellini beans are super-creamy and take on the flavor of just about anything you cook them in.
With this recipe, the flavors that the white beans will be taking on are the flavors of smoky, spicy tasso ham and the Cajun trinity (onions, bell peppers, and celery).
Cajun people, it seems, also know their way around a bean. They definitely know their way around food.
If you don’t want to have to bother with dried beans, you can substitute canned cannellini beans for them. Just use two 15 oz. cans that are drained well. You’ll want to simmer the trinity in the stock for the same amount of time, but add the beans in the last ten minutes of the cooking time.
Related: White Beans and Tasso are naked without a batch of Southern-Style Cornbread alongside them.
Dried beans are better, though. While cooking them, they have the opportunity to absorb more flavor from the cooking liquid.
Although cannellini beans are, in my opinion, the best choice, you can substitute another bean if you have to. Great northern beans are a reasonable alternative. If you can’t find cannellini beans at your local grocery store, you can get them on Amazon.
Tasso is a small spicy, smoked ham similar in texture to a country ham. I recommend that you make your own tasso. If you don’t want to bother with that, and you can’t find it at your local grocery store, you can buy it online at Cajun Grocer
This recipe for white beans and tasso is pretty simple. The main thing to keep in mind is to add salt at the end of the cooking process instead of the beginning. There is a lot of salt in the tasso. Any more might make it overly salty as the liquid reduces. Remember, salt doesn’t evaporate; water does. As the liquid evaporates, the salt to water ratio increases, making it saltier.
Finally, if you like creamier broth with your beans, about five minutes before your beans are done, just smash a few beans up against the side of the pot and stir them back in.
White Beans and Tasso
- 1 lb. dried cannellini beans
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 lb. tasso ham - 1/2-inch dice
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 medium yellow onion - diced
- 2 large celery stalks - diced
- 1 bell pepper - diced
- 2 large serrano peppers - seeded and finely diced (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- Kosher salt - to taste
The Night Before
- Open dried cannellini beans and sort out any stones or grit. Put into a large bowl and fill with at least enough water to cover the beans by two inches. Cover and leave overnight.
The Next Day
- Drain the water from cannellini beans and rinse.
- Add oil to a dutch oven and preheat over medium-high. Add the tasso and sear, stirring often until all sides have begun to color. Remove and set aside.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it is translucent and starting to brown. About 5 minutes. Add chopped celery, bell pepper, and serrano and continue cooking an additional 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, an additional minute.
- Add beans, tasso, chicken stock, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the beans are tender.Smash about a quarter cup of beans up against the side of the pot and stir back in. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Taste for salt. Add more if necessary. Serve with a big chunk of homemade cornbread on the side.
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