Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Flageolet Beans

One of the great things about fall is that we can start to bring a lot of comfort foods back to the menu without a lot of pushback from customers. During the summer, we cut way back on the carbs in favor of the excellent seasonal produce in the farmers markets. As the season wanes as it it right now, we have to look more and more to our pantry for garnishes for our main dishes. And our pantry contains a lot of beans that have been sitting all summer, waiting for their chance to shine on the menu.

Saturday night, we cooked the first flageolet ("flah-zho-lay" beans since March. Flageolets are small white to pale green, slightly kidney-shaped beans of French origin, shown here, dried on the left and rehydrated over night on the right.

Flageolets are harvested when still green, unlike most other beans which are harvested after the pods have dried. They are able to maintain some of the green color into the dried state, which makes them fairly unique among beans.

Flageolets are the bean in France that traditionally must be served with lamb. Not wanting to buck tradition, we served them with our braised local lamb shanks.

Flageolets don't break down during cooking, so you can use them in presentations where you want to see whole beans, such as cassoulet (in the absence of the ultra-rare and ultra-expensive Tarbais beans, which we also have in our pantry. Note to self, put up some duck confit for cassoulet). But they do get very creamy once you cook them. They're just an excellent bean.

Flageolets with Rosemary and Bacon

2 cups dried flageolets
2 bay leaves
fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 cup diced slab bacon, rind off
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Wash the flageolets and soak overnight in plenty of water. Drain and cook in water to cover with bay, a sprig of rosemary, and the crushed garlic cloves. I also throw in the bacon rind. Cook until you're happy with the tenderness, an hour or two. After an hour, add some salt and pepper to the pan.

Once the beans are tender, drain them and remove the bay, rosemary, garlic, and bacon rind. Return the beans to the pan. Cook the bacon about 2/3 done, add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the bacon, garlic, and bacon grease to the beans.

Rewarm the beans and season to taste with salt, pepper, finely minced rosemary, and extra virgin olive oil.

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