Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cookbook Adventures: Marrow Beans with Merguez, Pistachios, and Honey

When I got my heirloom bean cookbook, the first recipe that jumped out at me was Marrow Beans with Merguez, Pistachios, and Honey. I had some homemade Merguez in the freezer and all of the ingredients sounded like my kind of thing...... but in the end (and this is something I almost never say) there seemed to be too much going on. I thought my homemade Merguez tasted fantastic, but everything else seemed to detract from it... It's a shame, because I had high hopes for this recipe... but I remain cautiously optimistic about the book, Heirloom Beans by the folks at Rancho Gordo (who, conveniently, sell heirloom beans...).
Rancho Gordo wasn't selling marrow beans when I decided to make this, so I went to my other go-to heirloom bean source (who also sell totally awesome granola), Purcell Mountain Farms. Here are my pretty marrow beans before I started soaking them for 4 hours:
The spice mix for the beans involves cumin and coriander seeds (toasted and then ground) and Aleppo pepper, which I randomly had in my spice drawer and had never actually used until now.
The veggie base to be added to the beans is just onion, garlic, and celery.
The first step in all of this is to cook off the Merguez so you can use some of the flavorful rendered fat for cooking those vegetables. I had just a pound of this yummy sausage left in the freezer, which turned out to be what the recipe calls for.
This was cooked off (ignore how ghetto my casing looks when they're cooking...) and set aside in the fridge until serving time (which would be in a couple hours).
Honestly, this picture below served with some polenta and greens would have made me a happy camper. Mmmm... Merguez...
Anyway. Most of the fat is drained off and the veggies go in to cook until softened.
Then all that yumminess is added to the beans (which you were bringing to a boil in their soaking liquid in the meantime) along with the cumin, coriander, and Aleppo pepper.
After somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes, the beans are done (and delicious).
Now we get to all of the other ingredients... Swiss chard is cut into ribbons. (The rabbits got the leftovers, but were like "What the heck is this? Where are my collard greens?")
The greens go into the beans and are cooked for a few minutes, until starting to wilt nicely.The final seasonings to go into the bean mixture are parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, and harissa paste. I'm not in a good place health-wise to be spending extra time in the kitchen, so I punked out used store-bought harissa rather than making my own. Sorry.
The Merguez is gently warmed, and when it's ready you can add the above seasoning to your bean mixture. Doesn't that look delicious? Somehow it wasn't quite... Speaking of delicious, here is my Merguez...The Merguez is sliced into half-moons and distributed on top of the beans. Afterwards, chopped pistachios are sprinkled over the top, followed by a drizzle of honey (as seen in the picture at the top of the post).
So, yeah. This was sort of a fail. Every component (other than honey and parsley, which I am indifferent to) was a flavor/ingredient I really love, but somehow (for my palate, at least) the whole was less than the sum of its parts. I decided to post anyway because it builds character to admit to failure. At least the next couple things I cooked were absolutely fantastic (posts coming soon), so I didn't have to stay grouchy about this one for too long... Also, I am now reminded of how much I love making sausage, so I'll have to throw that in the recipe queue again sooner rather than later...

Will I Make This Again?: Nope. I think the beans would need a massive overhaul to earn the right to be served with my next batch of Merguez.

Was it Worth the Work?: There wasn't much in the way of "work," just time (and mostly unattended simmering time). Honestly, I'd just as soon make some simple risotto or polenta with yummy green veggies to serve with Merguez. The sausage has such a beautiful, complex flavor that it doesn't need an intensely-flavored accompaniment. So, I guess the answer is "no," even though there wasn't much work to speak of...

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