Recipe: Heirloom Bean and Mushroom “Carnitas” Casserole

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Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans with Mushroom "Carnitas" Casserole

The technique for the mushrooms comes from the blog, He Cooks, She Cooks. It’s not intuitive, doesn’t make much sense and yet it’s the most sublime technique for button mushrooms. I call it "Mushroom Carnitas" as the mushrooms cook in liquid and then fry themselves in fat after the liquid evaporates. The flavor is intense. I have been using olive oil instead of butter and I add a bay leaf during the cooking. It makes me feel like I’m helping.

For the Mushroom Carnitas:

  • 2 cups button mushrooms, medium slice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Rancho Gordo Oregano Indio or Mexican Oregano

For the Casserole:

  • 2 cups cooked Eye of the Goat or another Rancho Gordo heirloom bean
  • 6 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes, chopped roughly*
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice from the can
  • 1 cup Mushroom Carnitas 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 very small fresh mozzarella balls

Serves 4

  1. First, make the Mushroom Carnitas: Place the mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, bay leaf (if using), salt, and oregano in a large saucepan and add water to not quite cover the mushrooms. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat for a gentle simmer and keep cooking until the liquids have mostly evaporated, about 15 minutes. Watch carefully as once the evaporation starts, things happen quickly. Stir the mushrooms to avoid scorching. The mushrooms will start to “fry” in the olive oil. Keep stirring until the mushrooms are becoming mostly a golden brown.
  2. Next, make the casserole: Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine the beans, tomatoes, tomato juice, mushroom carnitas, garlic, thyme, and salt in a small casserole dish. Stir well. Check for salt, noting that the beans and mushrooms are likely to already be well-salted. Push the mozzarella down in five places.
  3. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes, but start checking at around 30 minutes. The liquid should be bubbling and the cheese starting to melt.

*A note on tomatoes: when did they start becoming so bad in a can? I remember when tomatoes weren’t in season, it was fine to get a big can of whole, peeled tomatoes and they were delicious. Now they are stingy and dry! I’ve tried Muir Glen and Trader Joes brands recently. I’m trying to avoid cans with BPA lining and both of those pass but the product was very lackluster. I know some of you are thinking, Why not just buy crushed tomatoes in a can if you’re going to chop them up anyway? I think the quality of those crushed or pureed tomatoes is even worse and I suspect there’s much less tomato inside and you’re paying for tomato juice. Yes, I can be a pain.