I rarely cook from recipes unless it’s something I’ve never made before. Then I’ll make it once or twice to get the technique down pat before venturing out on my own. I own a very limited set of cookbooks — 23 at last count. I use them primarily for reference, occasionally as inspiration. Once in a while I’ll prepare something lifted straight from their pages. I find that it’s best when you’ve cooked something that you’ve devised from the ground up. Besides, it’s seriously useful when you’re building your repertoire. There’s a quiet confidence that develops when you can gaze on a basket of food and call to mind ideas for the evening’s menu.
Technique is the most important element when it comes to cooking, in my opinion. Once you’re able to master something, the world becomes an open book.
And of course, nothing is more gratifying than cooking something from scratch and having it come together without a hitch.
Shelled flageolet beans
Le Chevrier vert, also known as the flageolet bean, was first obtained by a French grower named Gabriel Chevrier sometime in the late 19th century. This bean is set apart by its green color, which it holds onto even after the bean has dried in the pod. Though it is technically a white-seeded bean, it possesses the ability to retain chlorophyll much longer than other beans. It maintains its pale green shade even after cooking.
Flavor wise, the bean is creamy, delicate and slightly starchy. It tends to absorb and intensify the flavor of food it has been cooked with. Flageolets are best cooked simply with aromatics such as carrots, leeks and onion in chicken or vegetable stock, or in cassoulet.
Pan-roasted flounder, from Blue Moon Fish
Flageolet beans with slow-roasted heirloom tomatoes and tomato oil
Click here to view a high-resolution version of this picture.
For the flounder:
1 flounder fillet
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Generously sprinkle a 1:1 mixture of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper onto flounder. Set aside.
Preheat a cast-iron pan over medium-high to high heat. Make sure the pan is good and hot. Add canola oil (or other neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point) to coat the bottom, about 1 tablespoon. Wait a minute or two for the oil to heat through and add the flounder. Make sure there is sufficient “pan real estate” around the fish. The last thing you want to do is steam the fish. Sear the flounder on one side, about 1-2 minutes. Finish in the oven until fish is opaque — about 7-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.
For the beans:
2 lbs. flageolet beans, shelled
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 tablespoons celery leaves, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 tablespoon onion chives, minced
Arrange tomato wedges in a Pyrex baking dish, roasting pan or cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes at 350 F or until tomatoes are caramelized yet still hold their shape. Set aside. Reserve tomato oil.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, celery and celery leaves. Sauté aromatics until shallots are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add beans, bay leaf and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook until beans are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. If you don’t have any flageolet beans, substitute navy beans or lima beans instead. In the pic above, I also used half a package of baby limas because I didn’t have enough flageolets after shelling. You can serve the beans as is (along with any bean cooking liquid). If you want a richer taste, cover the pot and simmer over medium-high heat until the cooking liquid is almost entirely absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf. Remove from heat; stir in unsalted butter, marjoram, parsley and chives. Toss to coat.
To plate: Place flounder fillet on a warmed serving plate. Ladle beans next to fish. Top beans with roasted tomatoes. Drizzle beans with reserved tomato oil, and serve at once.
The beans recipe serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a vegetarian entrée.
Time: One hour (includes prep-time). The roasted tomatoes can be prepared ahead by up to one day if kept refrigerated.