Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pureed Cranberry Beans

Today's dish is a variation on a dish I found at Meatless Mondays.  The thought of creamy beans mixed with bechamel sauce was intriguing.  Cranberry beans are also called borlotti beans.  They are pretty when they are dry, cream colored with red or pink flecks.  I was in a hurry so I got a jar of them at my local Italian market.  I'm not sure if that was a good idea or not.

First, make the bechamel sauce.  Bechamel is just a white sauce, made with butter, flour and milk.  Warm the milk through without boiling before starting your sauce.

Melt the butter in the pan over low heat.

When the butter is completely melted, add the flour.  I usually turn off the heat during this part so that I don't brown the mixture.  (Brown isn't bad, it just isn't what we are looking for here.)

Mix thoroughly.  I like a wire whisk for this step to make sure it is completely smooth.  This recipe uses a thinner butter-flour mixture (roux) than I usually use, but I liked it!

Begin adding the scalded milk, a few tablespoons at a time, and incorporate it thoroughly into the roux.  (Turn the heat back on very low if you have previously turned it off)  Repeat until it seems that you have completely broken down the roux lumps.  This usually takes 4-5 times.

Once the roux is sufficiently loosened, you can add the rest of the milk all at once.  Cook over low heat until the sauce thickens, stirring regularly to prevent clumping.

Turn off the heat before it reaches the thickness you desire. It will continue to thicken as it cools. You can see how it looked when I turned it off.

Set the bechamel aside while you cook the beans.

(I can not show you a picture of the beans cooking, as Blogger will not let me upload it right now.  Maybe later?)

Put the beans (soaked dried, canned or jarred) into a medium pot and cover with about three inches of water.  If you feel unsure, add more water.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Add two bay leaves and two whole cloves of garlic.  Boil until the beans are nearly soft, the time will depend on the type of bean used.

Once the beans are nearing soft, add the chopped potato.  Cook 7-9 minutes, or until the potato and beans are tender through.

Fish out the bay leaves and garlic, and drain the beans and potato.  Transfer to your food processor or food mill and puree.

The beans and potatoes should be completely smooth.  (Yes, that is the mark where I tasted.)

Mix the bean puree with the bechamel sauce, and add a generous portion of grated parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.

The Verdict

This dish doesn't have much in the way of visual appeal.  My kids alternately told me that it looked like pig slop (?), some sort of mush, and a few other descriptions too yucky for this blog.  They all tried it and reactions were mixed, as usual.  One child, who refused to admit that she liked it, ate two servings liberally doctored with salt and pepper.  Two children didn't like it at all, and one said it "wasn't awful."

I thought it was OK, and I cleaned the dish, but it wasn't great.  I expected the beans to taste more like a white bean, and instead they tasted more like a pinto bean or a kidney bean.  I thought the combination of the beans, the bechamel, and the parmesan was just odd.  Not awful, but odd.

I can see making this with white beans, or using the borlotti beans in place of pinto or kidney beans in another recipe.  I'm sure we'll find out as I have another jar in the cupboard.

Note:  as I wrote this post, my memory made them taste better and better.  By the end, I found myself sad that they were gone.

Pureed Cranberry Beans, serves 4-5 as a side dish

one cup milk
two tablespoons butter
one and one-half tablespoons flour
one jar or can, or one cup soaked cranberry beans or borlotti beans
two bay leaves
two cloves whole garlic
one potato
parmesan cheese

Scald the milk over medium heat without letting boil.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  When it is completely melted, stir in the flour until thoroughly incorporated.

Add the milk to the roux (butter-flour mixture) two tablespoons at a time, incorporating completely before repeating.  Do 4-5 times, until the roux has loosened considerably and there are no lumps.

Add the rest of the milk all at once.  Cook over low heat, stirring often, until it is nearly thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Place beans in a large pan with the bay leaves and garlic cloves.  Cover with three inches of water.  Simmer until the beans are nearly soft.

Chop the potato into small bits and add to the beans.  Continue cooking for 7-9 minutes or until the beans and potato are both absolutely tender.

Fish out the garlic and bay leaves.  Drain the beans and potato and transfer to a food processor or food mill.  Puree until smooth.

Mix the bechamel sauce into the beans.  Add parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

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