1 pound cranberry beans (like Borlotti)
8 cups of water
15 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and trimmed
2 big shallots or white onion, sliced on the axis into thin crescents
2-3 dried smoked serranos, dried chipotles or other dried chilies or even one or two chipotles from the can (in adobo sauce)
2 teaspoons+ fine sea salt for seasoning
a drizzle of flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
a small handful of cilantro, chopped
a couple (optional) handfuls of a salty hard cheese, Parmesan, grated
Soak your beans overnight. Before soaking give them a good rinse. Look carefully for any pebbles or dirt clumps. Cover with a few extra inches of water, the Borlottis take in a lot of liquid. When you are ready to use the beans, drain them, rinse again, and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350. Place the racks near the bottom of the oven.
Put the beans, water, garlic, shallots, and chiles in an oven-proof pot or casserole – preferably one with an oven-proof lid.
Place the pot on a rimmed baking sheet (in case of accidental overflow), and place in the oven for two hours, or until beans are nice and tender. After the first hour check every twenty minutes or so.
When the beans are done, pull the pot out of the oven and season generously with salt. Stir and taste. Season so the broth tastes just right, the beans need some time to take in the saltier broth at this point, so once you have the broth seasoned nicely, just let the soup sit there on the top of the stove, covered for another ten minutes or so. Taste and adjust for seasoning one more time and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
To serve, first ladle a generous scoop of beans into each bowl, and follow with the broth to cover. Sprinkle with cilantro and cheese.
Serves 4 to 6