Tuscan-Style Beans With Bacon And Kombu Recipe

Japan meets Italy meets the American South in this pot of beans

Jesse Koide has worked at sushi bars and Italian restaurants, and now helms the kitchen at the original San Francisco location of Mission Chinese Food, where the chef–who had no prior experience in Chinese cuisine–cooks some of that city's most memorable food.

So it makes sense that the pantry in Koide's home kitchen is crammed with a global assortment of ingredients, from Benton's bacon to dried seaweed kombu to heirloom Italian beans. When tasked with creating a recipe for Tasting Table, he made a pot of beans using all three. The focus in his Italy-by-way-of-the-American-South-and-Japan heirloom beans is on building layers of flavor that infuse the beans with smoky, savory, depth, is simple but revelatory.

Recipe adapted from Jesse Koide, Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco

Tuscan-Style Beans With Bacon And Kombu
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Tuscan-Style Beans with Bacon and Kombu
Prep Time
Cook Time
cups of cooked beans
Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
  • Beans
  • Kombu (dried Japanese kelp seaweed), one 4-by-6-inch piece
  • Dried borlotti or cannellini beans, 1½ pounds
  • Smoky bacon (such as Benton's or Nueske's), 4 ounces (preferably in 1 piece rather than strips)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon, plus extra for serving
  • Medium white onion, ½ (finely chopped)
  • Celery, 1 stalk (finely chopped)
  • Fennel fronds and stalks, from 1 bulb (finely chopped)
  • Fresh sage leaves, 8 (finely chopped)
  • Dried bay leaves, 2
  • Fresh rosemary, 1 medium sprig (needles removed and finely chopped)
  • Garlic clove, 1 (smashed with the side of a chef's knife)
  • Dried red pepper flakes, 1 pinch
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 1 pinch
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind, 1
  • Flaky salt, for serving
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  1. In a large bowl, add the: Kombu Cover the kombu with room-temperature water and let the kombu sit until soft and pliant, about 30 minutes. Use scissors to cut crosswise strips into one of the long sides of the kombu, so it looks like a comb. To the bowl, add the: Dried borlotti beans Cover with more room-temperature water to submerge the beans by a few inches. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, strain the beans into a colander. Transfer the kombu to a soup pot along with the: Smoky bacon Cover with 10 cups of water and bring the kombu and bacon to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low and cook (the liquid shouldn't even be simmering) until the water is very cloudy, about 20 minutes. Set a colander in a large bowl and strain the kombu-bacon broth. Discard the kombu and use tongs to transfer the bacon to a cutting board. Cut the bacon into ¾-inch cubes.
  3. Rinse and dry the soup pot and add to it the chopped bacon, along with: 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil Set the pot over medium heat and cook the bacon until it begins to render and brown, about 5 minutes. Add: 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Warm the oil for 1 minute, then use the wooden spoon to stir in the: Chopped onion Chopped celery Chopped fennel fronds and stalks Chopped fresh sage Dried bay leaves Chopped fresh rosemary Smashed garlic clove Dried red pepper flakes Freshly ground black pepper Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes (don't let the vegetables brown). To the pot, add the: Soaked, strained borlotti beans Cook until the beans are warmed through, about 3 minutes, then pour in 8 cups of the reserved kombu-bacon broth (save the remaining broth, since you might need to add more to the simmering beans) and add the: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind 4. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a bare boil (just until a few bubbles rise to the surface). Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover, leaving the lid slightly askew. Gently simmer, stirring occasionally and checking often to make sure the beans are not simmering too hard (this could cause the beans to split), cooking the beans until tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes, adding additional kombu-bacon broth if needed (the beans should always be covered by about ½ inch of liquid; if you run out of kombu-bacon broth, use water).
  4. Turn off the heat and uncover the pot. Use a ladle or slotted spoon to transfer the beans and some cooking liquid to bowls, making sure to get a few pieces of bacon in each bowl. Serve drizzled with olive oil, a pinch of flaky salt and some of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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