With these simple tweaks, pork and beans can be fancy too

Recently I was accepted into a certain very exclusive, years-long-of-a-wait club. It feels like it took at least five, but in reality I can’t remember when I signed up. It was probably during the early days of the pandemic when I was definitely desperate for community — any community.

You might be thinking the club is some elitist sanctuary where I would have to wear a blazer and still have to pay to dine at the restaurant, but no, this club is a bean club. Yep, you read that right. I am now officially a member of a club where I will be receiving pounds and pounds of dried heirloom beans from small sustainable farms in California, the greater US, Mexico and beyond. Full disclosure: This is an ad-free column so the club will remain unnamed.

I received my first shipment this past week, which was thrilling but also confusing. Right now we’re in the middle of the fresh bean season, so to be receiving dried beans is not exactly what my pantry needs. The farmers’ markets are full of all kinds of gorgeous string and shelling beans like thin haricot vert, broad and long Romano beans, cranberry and more. The bean bounty is very real.

So, this week’s column celebrates the old and new beans: fresh Romano beans and dried beans of your choice in a salad that feels light, fresh, crisp and creamy all at once. It’s so light that I like to serve it with something really rich, such as pork shoulder steak.

Pork shoulder, which is often destined for a long braise, has become my go-to cut ever since I realized it is easier to cook than a bone-in chop, has more flavor and is cheaper. Sorry, pork chops.

I season these boneless pork shoulder steaks with dried onion, garlic and a little crushed chile before cooking them in a pan until deeply caramelized and golden. As they rest, I generously dollop Dijon mustard and drizzle honey over the top so each slice is saturated in sweetness, tang and full of allium flavor.

I dress the salad with lemon juice, macerated shallots and a little salt. It sounds incredibly simple, but the elemental flavors of savory pork, creamy shell beans, crisp Romano beans, lemon, honey and Dijon feels nourishing, yet rich and full of flavor.

Going back to which beans work in the salad, besides a fresh bean such as Romano or wax, the choice of fresh or dried shell beans is entirely up to you. I would suggest a big white bean like corona, even a cannellini or pinto if that’s what you can find or have on hand. Just remember: You are your own bean club, it’s exclusive and you don’t have to wait or wear a blazer.

Christian Reynoso is a chef, recipe developer and writer. Originally from Sonoma, he lives in San Francisco. Email: [email protected] Instagram: @christianreynoso Twitter: @xtianreynoso

Honey Dijon Pork & Beans

Sweet honey, tangy mustard and juicy pork shoulder steaks balance out the crisp string beans of summer and creamy shell beans. If you don’t see pork shoulder steaks in the meat case, just ask the butcher to cut them for you.

Serves 4

2 boneless shoulder steaks, about ¾- to 1-inch thick each, (about 2 pounds total)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh green beans, haricot vert or Romano beans, stemmed
cup chopped shallot
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
cups cooked, drained shell beans such as corona, cannellini or pinto
teaspoon crushed chile flakes
teaspoon garlic powder
teaspoon onion powder
3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
Dijon mustard, for serving
Wildflower honey, for serving
cups arugula, optional
Flake salt, for serving

Instructions: Pat the pork steaks dry and place on a plate for about 20-30 minutes before cooking.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of salted water and blanch the green beans until just tender, al dente; basically let them have the feeling of being cooked, but hardly so. Drain beans in a strainer and lightly rinse with cold water to get them cool to the touch, but not cold. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the shallots and lemon juice. Add the green beans and drained cooked shell beans and season with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat everything in the lemon juice and set aside. Mix the chile flakes, garlic and onion powders in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large pan, preferably cast iron, over high heat. Season the pork steaks with salt and pepper and then coat with the chile spice mix . Carefully slide the steaks into the oil, firmly press them down with tongs and sear until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn them over and sear until cooked through and golden brown on the bottom side as well, about 4 more minutes Transfer the chops to a cutting board.

Spoon several dollops of mustard onto each steak. Drizzle the steaks with honey and let rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
When ready to serve, add the arugula, if using, to the beans and toss well. Slice the steak, season with flake salt black pepper. Serve the pork steak on top or alongside the salad.

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