Flageolet beans, are they special?
Quick report and photo to follow up on the linked gratin recipe. Thanks to petradish for posting. Overall, it was a success and was consistent w/ what I know of Goin's cooking style and cuisine. Rustic yet quietly elegant at the same time. Lighter than most gratins as this had no cream or cheese.
We ate humbly tonight so I made this as our main dish. As such, I added some minced black Greek olives to the gratin to give it some salty and bitter edge. Think it worked well. Also used panko instead of homemade bread crumbs and reduced amount of butter a bit. Used pinch of Penzeys aleppo pepper for the chile, which gave it a wonderful fruity and smoky quality. While it sorta worked as a veggie main, it was really designed to go w/ lamb and I yearned for a little lamb chop or shank alongside. I could see it matching perfectly...
Things I would do differently: Wait towards end to salt beans. I salted after 30 min. as suggested, and beans stayed a little tough even though the same batch softened well in a soup recently. Slice fennel instead of dicing...I thought the dice broke down too much during cooking and wanted more textural interest. Overall, a keeper of a recipe!
re: Carb Lover
Thanks for reporting back with your results. I'm glad you seem satisfied with the flavors. Good point that the fennel sort of fades into the background with dicing and could be larger. And you're right, it really does sing with bit of lamb (or duck, sausage) along for the ride.
That's too bad about the beans not softening enough. What was your total baking time? My initial thoughts are that it would longer for your batch of beans to soften due to heating differences between oven baking (gratin) vs stovetop flame cooking (soup), plus I'm assuming your soup had more liquid than the gratin's beans.
I don't know why Goin says to add the salt halfway thru cooking. Playing around with dried beans, I'm not convinced salt affects bean softening as much as age of beans, heat, or acids. Were the olives cooked with the beans or on top with the breadcrumbs?
Thanks for your feedback. Let's see, I baked the beans first w/ the fennel, spices, and water for just over an hour. By then, they had softened enough but weren't quite melting or creamy. We were hungry and I figured they would have 20 more min. in the oven w/ the assembled gratin, so total cooking time for beans in the 400F deg oven was about 90 min. I didn't add the minced olives til I assembled the gratin.
Don't get me wrong, the beans were def. edible and even enjoyable, but had a certain stiffness that seemed like it wouldn't change too much w/ further cooking. While I've read that salt isn't really the culprit as everyone thinks, I still wonder since I salted about 30 min. into it. This batch did have less liquid and lower temp. than my flageolet soup.
About halfway into baking it, I realized that it probably would have been better and easier to cook the bean/fennel mixture on the stovetop and finish gratin in oven since I didn't make the lamb. I love when the oven warms up the house though!
Yes, they are special (one of my faves!) but they don't need any special treatment beyond usual beans of their size. Just soak overnight and use.
Coincidentally, I just made a flageolet soup last night that I was going to post about, so I'll just post it here. Flageolet, escarole, and ham soup. Flavors harmonize beautifully, and escarole is my new favorite green!! Chardgirl, if you're reading this, this is what I did w/ your lovely escarole! Chard or kale (or possibly romaine lettuce) would work if you can't get escarole. Photo of the beans after soaking is below, as well as the soup. I really love the color of these beans (they remind me of tic tacs, for some reason).
I'm not good w/ exact measurements, and this soup is very forgiving, so here's a general guideline:
Soak about 2/3 lb. beans in water overnight. Make sure to cover w/ good amount of water as they will double in size. Strain before cooking.
In heavy-bottomed soup pot, saute some diced onion and garlic in olive oil til soft and fragrant. Add beans and one smoked ham hock. Add water til ham hock is just covered. Bring to boil and then simmer covered til beans are tender, about one hour.
Remove ham hock and cut meat into small cubes. Return ham bone to broth and continue simmering on low heat. If desired, add finely diced carrot and celery and simmer for 5-10 min. Add more water (or light chicken broth for richer flavor) to increase broth and season w/ S&P. Add sliced escarole from a whole head along w/ diced ham. Let wilt and soften but not get too mushy, about 10-15 min. Skim off any foam if desired. Taste broth and adjust seasoning, adding a squeeze of lemon for a bright acid note.
Garnish at table w/ sprinkling of grated parmesan and more black pepper. (I added some chopped parsley this time but wouldn't recommend it since it didn't really go and was overpowering.) Serve w/ bread or float some toasted baguette croutons on top. Using a pre-cooked lamb shank instead of the ham hock could be very nice too.
BTW, I'm using the rest of my beans tonight for the linked flageolet gratin that petradish recently posted. Sounds great!
Taunton.com says the following:
"Flageolets are tiny, tender French beans. Delicate in flavor, they range from creamy white to light green. If you can't find them, try navy beans instead. The slow-roasted tomatoes will last in the fridge for up to five days; cover them with olive oil (add some sprigs of thyme or rosemary and a clove of garlic, if you like) and they'll keep up to two weeks."
http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/Fl... adds the following:
"Flageolet Beans - The caviar of beans - Flageolets are tiny, tender French bush type beans that are very popular in French cooking. They range from creamy white to light green.
Flageolets are removed from the pod when tender and just maturing. This bean of French origin is grown in the fertile soil of California. Its versatile flavor compliments lamb, as well as fish and chicken. If you can't find them, substitute navy beans instead."
IMOO, nothing can replace flageolets beans, and they are the very best to go with lamb.