Big Beans and Bitter Greens

4 11 2010

It was a while ago, at some salon or other, that Nick and I first made the acquaintance of the haricot de Soissons.  They immediately earned themselves a nickname: the Big Beans.

haricots de Soissons

I think you can see why.  The beans are grown in the Aisne valley (a name you may recognize from this beer post), located northwest of Reims and Northeast of Paris.  It’s in the Picardie region, which isn’t necessarily known for its food, but these beans are notable for more than just their size – they’re also creamy-textured and incredibly flavorful.

So why am I writing about them now?  Well, a few weeks ago I got some escarole in my CSA bag.  The same week, Andrea from Cooking Books featured a recipe for a delightful fall stew with beans, greens, and sausage.  She didn’t use it, but the original recipe called for escarole, and I had some!  I figured it would be a good time to use the Big Beans, so I soaked them for a day and a half in salted water.  All of you who are gasping in horror at the thought of adding salt to beans before they’re cooked should really go read this post at Nose to Tail at Home.  (Thanks for the tip, Ryan!)  Then I simmered them in more salted water until they were tender, about 45 minutes or so.

And then, I was ready to make stew.  I didn’t have Italian sausage, and wouldn’t even know where to look for it in Paris, but I did have some ground pork.  Which I cooked, seasoning it as though it were going to be sausage with red pepper flakes, fresh thyme and rosemary, and of course, plenty of salt.  (If I’d had fennel seeds I totally would have used them, but it happens to be a gap in my otherwise fairly comprehensive spice collection.)  From there, I just made stew: I added some onions, some broth, tomatoes, and the Big Beans.  I let it all simmer for a bit while I cleaned and tore up some escarole, and then I stirred that in until it wilted.

beans & greens

We ate it for lunch on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, and it was just the ticket.  Filling and warming and nap-inspiring.  We had quite a bit left over, which Nick took to work and ate for lunch a few more times during the week.  If that’s not a compliment to the chef, I don’t know what is.

Yesterday, in 2009: How to Make a Cream Soup (It may be cheating a little from the “This day in history” standpoint, but I think it’s an important post, so I’m putting it up anyway.)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




12 responses

4 11 2010

Mmm, that looks hearty and warming. Perfect for the November gray and early-night that’s been going on here!

4 11 2010

egads, it looks as if those beans have had a healthy dose of Mr. Burns’ Brain and Nerve Tonic.

5 11 2010

Oh gosh, I love how huge those beans are! Surely that’s the kind that got Jack up the beanstalk…

5 11 2010

My god, that looks amazing for a cold night!

5 11 2010

Hopie – I do love the extra hour, but I don’t love the early dark that comes with it.

Pete – “Ken Griffey’s grotesquely swollen jaw…”

Hannah – No doubt.

Ryan – Indeed!

6 11 2010

I love bean stews and have become obsessed with the fresh beans in the market this year — they’re so tender and creamy! I make something similar with escarole stirred in. Sausage is a great addition. Thanks for the idea!

6 11 2010
hungry dog

Wow! This looks insanely good. It’s exactly the kind of soup I like to make and eat, especially on a rainy Sunday!

6 11 2010

Ann – My pleasure! I love fresh shell beans, too, I just wish the season were longer!

hungry dog – It is perfect rainy day fare. 🙂

10 11 2010

Damn, but those are some big beans. Aptly nicknamed! My go-to green for greens and sausage stew is kale. I guess I should start thinking outside the kale box and try some escarole. And since I’m in the south, I think I’d better do something w/collards, too.

So, how are the beans alone? Creamy and delightful, I hope:)

10 11 2010

Jenni – If only I could find kale around here… I love the stuff! Still, I do appreciate being forced into creativity! 🙂 The beans alone are delightful. In fact, they were being sold as stand-alone fare, stabbed with toothpicks they make great cocktail bites!

11 11 2010

What a lovely stew! And I’m surprised that the beans cook up so quickly for their size! Love the idea of faking sausage meat too – tried that recently but it didn’t entirely work as I didn’t put enough salt.

11 11 2010

Su-Lin – Thank you! I think the long soaking time really helps the beans to cook evenly and quickly.

%d bloggers like this: