Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Steuben Yellow Eye Beans

I love shell beans and of the scores of varieties that I have tried, one of the few that I keep coming back to is an old heirloom variety called Steuben Yellow Eye, a white bean with a caramel eye. I've also heard these beans called Calypso, Butterscotch Calypso, Molasses Face, and Maine Yellow Eye.

These beans are probably the bean of Boston baked bean fame, but I'm not a huge fan of that sweet preparation. I mostly use these beans with Tuscan flavors under lamb, in soup, and more frequently, blended as the basis for a dal or a white bean purée. The primary reason that I keep coming back to these beans is that they have great texture and a wonderfully mellow flavor.

If you run across some of these beans, soak them overnight and then cook until tender with a standard mirepoix of onions, carrots, and celery and a bouquet garni of bay, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Remove the bouquet and blitz the beans in the food processor until smooth. Reheat the purée over a medium flame adding water as necessary and season to taste with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs including parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Customers at the restaurant absolutely love this dish which we call "Refried Beans with Style."

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