Calypso Beans with Bacon + Musings on One Pot Meals

Calypso Beans with Bacon a one pot meal-- maple, chocolate, chiles

My mother was a master of the one-pot meal. From chicken cacciatore to coq au vin, to jambalaya, to French puy lentils with sausage, her dishes her dishes were always laced with garlic and wine and a good dose of fines herbs.

Each family member had his or her favorite dish- mine was chicken with vinegar and cream, a recipe my Uncle Johnny begged off of the chef at Oak Hill Grocery in Yountville.  He was sworn to secrecy, but I loved it so much as a girl, he agreed to share it with my mother. Now, of course, I have it, but I will never publish it, so don’t ask. My brother’s favorite was chicken cacciatore-  he called it red chicken. My dad’s was easily boeuf bourguignon- which he loved to pronounce in his terrible French accent.  Incidentally, all of my father’s French centered around food, his favorite expressions being “á table”, “passé moi le beurre”, and “merci pour le bon dinner”

My mother never wrote down a recipe in her life- ever.  I am not sure how she made her chicken cacciatore or her jambalaya or any of the one-off improvised dishes she invented.  But, some of the dishes she made are in my culinary soul and I go back to my own version of them time and again.

Calypso Beans with Bacon a one pot meal-- maple, chocolate, chiles

Like my mother, some of my best creations come when I’m improvising in the kitchen, but in the last several months, I’ve had to start documenting what exactly goes into each dish. Otherwise, I’d be a pretty lousy food blogger.  This one pot meal was composed in the spirit of my mother. No recipe. No reference. Just on a feeling. These beans lie somewhere in between chili beans and baked beans. Bathed in a thick liquor slightly sweet from maple sugar and single origin dark chocolate, quite smoky from bacon, pork stock, and California chile powder, and fiery from the habañero, I can safely say my French mother would have said “my tongue doesn’t know which way to go in my mouth” which is exactly what she said when she ate anything hotter than a pepperoncini.

  • 12 oz red calypso beans or other good quality small dried beans
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or pork fat
  • 2 tbsp dried California chile
  • ½ teaspoon habañero powder
  • 1 tbsp maple sugar (or maple syrup)
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 3 cups stock (I used home made pork stock)
  • 1 lb thick cut bacon
  • 1 oz dark chocolate (minimum 65%)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste


Calypso Beans with Bacon a one pot meal-- maple, chocolate, chiles

  • Soak beans overnight- up to 24 hours in a large bowl filled with cold clean water.
  • Sauté the onion in the fat over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until it becomes transluscent and smells sweet. The edges may turn slightly golden, but not brown.
  • Add stock, California chile, cumin seed, and beans, turn heat to high and bring to a boil then immediately lower heat and bring back down to a simmer. Add maple sugar, chocolate, and half of habañero powder. Cover and leave at simmer for one and a half to two hours stirring occasionally and checking more frequently as the  doneness nears.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil. Make sure bacon is not too crowded on the baking sheet. Place cooking sheet in a cold oven and turn to 350º for roughly 20-25 minutes for perfectly cooked bacon. Place meat on paper towels to drain, and strain bacon fat and save in mason jars for later use.
  • Chop bacon into bite sized pieces.
  • Once beans are 20 minutes or so from being done, add final seasoning including the chopped bacon because, as my husband always says, “bacon is a spice”.
  • Serve this one with a big green salad and homemade lemonade or a cararmel-scented Beligian-style ale. Try Allagash Curieux.


  1. says

    Man, I love this line; "are in my culinary soul." That says it all. Your mom sounds like a fantastic woman and cook. I'm sure I'd have loved to sit at her table. These beans, wow. I was wanting some just from your description. Put that alongside the picture and you should be surprised that I'm not knocking on your door. There are pork chops in my near future and I think I've found the perfect side dish to go with them. Thanks!

  2. says

    This is one of the best posts I've read today!! I cook like your mom, but like you I've had to try to record what I'm doing for the blog. I have however, made a few recipes that just state "some of this, some of that". My mom can't cook like that, she even has a spoon to measure a pinch! My husband measures a pinch too.

    As for this recipe, it's perfect. I love everything about it including your mom's spirit running through it! Thank you!

    • says

      Hey Kim,
      Thanks so much for your really kind comments. My husband doesn’t cook, but he’s been known to bake. The precise nature of baking suits him just fine. Even though he hadn’t baked for years (since he was single) I was under a crunch one year at Christmas and I gave him a brown sugar cake recipe from Donna Hay to bake. It was perfect- maybe better than I would have done. He also likes to prep veggies as long as he can do it in a perfectly clean kitchen (oops).

  3. operagirlcooks says

    Oh my, those sound absolutely delicious. I've been on a bean kick lately what with the cold weather, and now I want to add calypso beans to my repertoire!

    • says

      Thank you!
      I love beens, and the heirloom varieties you can find (try rancho gordo if you haven’t already) are amazing.
      Brrr perfect winter food, but also perfect summer food, think chili and bean salad. I love beans!

  4. says

    I don't eat meat!!!! But I am going to try to make this anyway! I've never had calypso beans, but I've never met a bean I didn't like! I could relate so much to your mom! I don't use recipes… cook by 'instinct' but folks kept urging me to document how I make my dishes… so I started my food blog! Which I find super challenging, because it forces me to stop and measure! :D To culinary improvisation…….!!!!!

    • says

      Hey Tiffany,
      When I go through my no-meat phases (one lasted 10 years), I find a GREAT substitute for bacon are smoked dried red onions. I buy them from Tierra Vegetables and I use them a lot! I would like to get one of those new smokers from Williams Sonoma that you use inside and smoke stuff yourself- the reviews seem pretty good, but I’m skeptical that they could produce anything this yummy. Here’s their site.

  5. says

    Ha – well, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that as long as you keep posting recipes like this, it's totally cool if you don't publish the Chicken with Vinegar and Cream recipe … but seriously, why you gotta tease us like that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>