Prebranac

The golden crust on a pan of prebranac

Prebranac is Serbian baked beans. It consists of lima beans, onions, and a few seasonings. It can be served as a side, or as a main dish, perhaps with some salad and bread. It is vegan, although would probably be delicious served with sausage.

Start by soaking dry lima beans (also known as butter beans) overnight, and then cook them for an hour or so until just tender. They will cook more in the oven, so they can be on the firm side still, but should be edible.

The onion is cooked slowly in a good amount of oil so they soften and begin to break down. This is the same way you would make caramelized onion, but stop cooking before they start to caramelize. I cooked them for close to an hour, adding a splash of bean cooking water every once in a while to loosen the sugars from the bottom before they caramelized, as well as provide some steam to soften the onion faster.

Once they onion is cooked, add the seasonings, layer the beans and onions in a casserole, along with some of the bean cooking water, and pop it in the oven for an hour or so.

Traditionally prebranac is served at room temperature, but I imagine that varies depending of the weather and time of year.


Prebranac

Serves: 8-12
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 2 ½- 3 hours.

1 ½ lb. dry lima beans
6 medium yellow onions, sliced
⅞ cup sunflower oil
1 Tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
4 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper

Optional:
⅞ cup canola oil, in place of sunflower oil
2 Tablespoons fresh dill
32 oz. chunky tomato sauce
3 ⅓ cups water, in place of bean cooking liquid.
⅓ teaspoon ground chili pepper
⅜ cup olive oil, added to water when cooking beans
1 ½ Tablespoons flour
1 ½ large leeks
1 Tablespoon allspice

Soak beans overnight.

Drain, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Drain again, cover once again with fresh water, using about 3 cups for every cup of beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour and a half, until beans are tender. Drain, reserving liquid, and set asside.

Meanwhile, place onions and oil in a cold pot and slowly heat, cooking for 30 minutes to an hour, until onions are very soft and golden, but not caramelized. Add a few drops of water if necessary to keep them from sticking.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

When onions are cooked, stir in paprika, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper and cook for a couple more minutes.

Grease a deep casserole dish, preferably clay. Place a layer of beans in the bottom, then a layer of onions. Repeat layers until everything is in the dish, ending with beans. Pour any remaining oil over the beans, and then add enough bean cooking water to bring liquid level with top of beans.

Bake for about 1 hour.

For best flavor, refrigerate over night before serving warm or at room temperature.

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