My obsession with crispy white beans started by accident. Ten years ago, I lived with my sister, Marta, just after she graduated from college, and we roasted a lot of chickens together. One night, when we couldn't find anything else in the kitchen worth roasting, we dumped a can of white beans (drained and rinsed, of course) under the roasting rack before popping the chicken in the oven.
The chicken fat showered down all over those beans, giving them life. But because there were not enough beans to fill our big roasting pan, they weren't totally submerged in chicken juices or fat. So they got crispy. Marta and I hardly noticed the chicken that night: those golden-brown and crispy on the outside, but creamy and schmaltzy on the inside beans captured our full attention, and our hearts. We roasted many cans of white beans for the rest of those two years we lived together.
Then, with a new roommate I kind of forgot about them.
Four (or was it five?) years ago I started sharing all my personal space in the Test Kitchen with Kat. Cooking together every day at work isn't that different from being roommates. And one thing I've always believed roommates should do is make sure that the other person remembers to eat. It sounds crazy, but sometimes, when I'm cooking all day on deadline, I really do forget to eat. Whenever I feel energy levels and moods plummeting, it's time for a protein snack. It's good to share space with someone who can tell when I need it.
So the beans began again: If there was nothing ready to eat at lunchtime, and one of us knew the other needed some protein, we'd grab a can of beans off the shelf. We started making trays of crispy white beans for each other, and I had another three years of crispy edges and creamy centers in my life. We piled them onto bowls of dressed greens if we had the time and greens available. We ate them over bowls of yogurt or ricotta, or with an egg for double-protein snacking. Or we just went bean by bean with our hands. Kat doesn't share my kitchen space everyday anymore, but this time I'm not going to forget to keep making crispy white beans.
And you should make crispy white beans, too! I'm sure you've made crispy chickpeas before, right? We're big fans of them here at Epi. And I do love a good crispy chickpea, but I really love a crispy white bean. Since they're not quite as sturdy as chickpeas, the skins of white beans have a way of popping open and curling back in places as they roast.
So how do you do make them? I promise you, it's so simple that you don't need a recipe.
Cannellini, Great Northern, Butter, Lima, or any canned white bean you have sitting in your pantry will work. I'd estimate one can for one or two people, and two cans for three or four. (Or two cans for two people if it's been too many hours since you remembered to eat.)
First, rinse your beans in a strainer. Tip them onto a clean dish towel and bring the edges up over the top to pat them dry. Really dry. (Let them air dry a bit if you have time and it isn't a hangry meltdown emergency.) Then pick them up in the towel and tip the beans onto an unlined, rimmed baking sheet. Crank your oven to 425°„F and let it really get there.
Toss your beans in some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add a couple of crushed garlic cloves if you want, or some crushed red pepper flakes, or a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, oregano, or thyme, or some lemon zest, or all of the above.
Then pop the pan in the oven and roast, stirring once halfway through, until the beans are golden-brown and crisp, about half an hour. And that's it.
Now, scatter your crispy white beans over roasted vegetables or a salad, eat them with a roast chicken, or however your heart desires. But don't leave them out on the counter in a high-traffic area°™each person who walks by will grab a bean or two, and then keep coming back for more°™and that's how I almost didn't have enough crispy white beans left to put in front of the camera for the photo you see above.