Creamed Fava Beans with Bacon (Fèves au Lard Fumé)
Adapted from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food
2.5 lbs unshelled fava beans
2 ounces thinly sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 inch widths
1/2 T. butter
1 branch fresh savory, or a bit of crumbled dried savory
~1/4 c. water
1/3 c. heavy cream
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Shell the fava beans, then drop the beans into boiling water for about 30 seconds in order to make peeling easier. Drain and run cold water over the beans to cool. With your fingernail, slit the skin then gently squeeze the bright green beans into a separate bowl.
Heat the butter in a pan over low heat. Add the bacon, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. The bacon should remain limp. Add the fava beans, savory, and just enough water to moisten the mixture. Cover tightly, then turn the heat up to high for about 30 seconds to start everything cooking. Reduce the heat to low so that the beans will steam rather than boil. Cook for 20-30 minutes until the beans are tender, gently shaking the pan every so often so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or so.
Mix together the cream, egg yolk, and pepper, then gently stir into the fava bean mixture and return to a low heat. Cook only long enough for the sauce to thicken a bit (1-3 minutes), until it will coat the back of a spoon. Do not let the mixture boil, or the egg/cream mixture will take on an unappetizing texture. Stir in a few squeezes of lemon juice to taste, then garnish with the chopped parsley. Enjoy!
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A few weeks ago I found myself in the french countryside enjoying an outdoor lunch in the charming wine-producing town of St. Emillon. On the recommendation of a wine shop proprietor, Steven and I lunched under the historic clock tower on a terrace overlooking some of the St. Emillon vineyards — a spectacular setting!
For lunch I had a dish of stewed fava beans with chunks of bacon in an egg-cream sauce, Fèves au Lard Fumé. It was … incredibly … delicious. Rich without being overly heavy, a little smoky from the bacon, and with a hint of spring freshness from the fava beans, it’s a dish I have thought about many times since that lunch.
Before this trip through southern France, I really hadn’t considered french cooking very much. I had a vision of finicky, complex processes, esoteric ingredients, lots of foie gras, and of course the baguette. How naive I was! After tasting the wonders done with the simple fava bean, I wonder, french cooking, where have you been all my life?
Shortly after the trip I picked up two classic french cooking primers — Richard Olney’s Simple French Food and Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking — and have been steadily cooking dishes out of both (including this Fèves au Lard Fumé). The ingredients are generally simple, the processes un-fussy, and the results delicious and consistent. Reading through these primers I can also see how classic french cuisine has influenced the slow food / SOLE movement — look at any of the lovely recipes in something like Chez Panisse Vegetables, and you cannot help but see its french roots.
As for this particular recipe, I know for many of you, fava beans are long gone from the farmer’s market. When I used to live in California, I considered fava bean season to be roughly April and May. Here in northern Germany though, we are a couple of months behind. Asparagus season just ended, and tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and summer squash are still a long ways off. Fava beans, tiny carrots, new potatoes, and lots and lots and lots of strawberries fill the market stalls these days. If you happen to be in northern environs like me, I encourage you to give this a try. Otherwise, dig out your french cookbooks, look up a recipe for a dish with eggplant and tomatoes, and celebrate french summer cuisine!