Who doesn't look forward to a traditional Memorial Day dinner of maple glazed roast duckling served over johnny cakes with Succotash di Fave to kick off the summer?! Here in the Boston area, we've had nothing but cloudy skies, light rain and temperatures in the fifties since Friday. Today, Memorial Day here in the USA, the unofficial start of summer, one of the biggest light–up–the–backyard–grill–to–cook–the–bejeebus–out–of–cheap–hot–dogs–and–hamburgers days of the year, it's been nothing but torrential downpours and temperatures in the forties. And for all of this I say "Thank You!" If it weren't this fall–like day on this first day of the summer cooking season, I'd never have discovered the joy of succotash.
Succotash, at its most basic, is a dish of fresh corn, fresh beans (usually lima beans), cooked with a tiny bit of salt pork or bacon and a touch of cream and/or butter and seasoned with a bit of nutmeg. Many think of succotash as a southern dish, but that's not where it comes from. It actually originates from my neck of the woods where the Narragansetts (who grew beans right next to the corn, allowing the corn stalks to serve as supports for the bean plants), calling it sukquattahash or m'sickquatash, showed it to the European settlers who promptly Europeanized it by adding the salt pork, cream and nutmeg bits (in fact, being English, I'm sure they would have used tinned corn and beans and evaporated milk right off the bat had they been available). Many also think of succotash as something that comes in a frozen dinner or that's offered as a side at one of those meat and potatoes restaurants your parents used to take you to when you were a kid (again, probably from that British influence). Unfortunately, that's been the reality for most Americans since the mid 20th century since it's easy to make using canned ingredients from your friendly food service wholesaler and can be kept warm in the buffet line for hours on end in one of those stainless steel sterno powered bain maries. But it doesn't have to be that way. No, not at all.
Succotash made with fresh ingredients—corn cut off the cob and beans fresh from the garden (or at least from the pod as purchased in the market that day)—is something to behold. Sautéing the corn and beans in a bit of the fat from rendered salt pork makes it tasty and adding a bit of fresh cream just to moisten in a bit makes it luxurious. For my vegetarian friends, simply substitute olive oil for the pork fat, and add a bit of brown miso paste to make up for the salty richness of the salted pork. In fact, I find that miso is an excellent provider of salty rich goodness in any recipe that calls for cured pork like pancetta, salt pork or ham hocks (add some barley miso to red beans and rice or collard greens, and your meat eating friends would never notice that anything were missing).
Succotash di Fave
Tonight I Molto Mario'd the succotash, using fresh fava beans in place of the lima beans and pancetta in place of the salt pork and tossed in some thinly sliced roasted red pepper for color and flavor. In fact, I'm surprised that this is not already a traditional northern italian dish. If you're vegetarian, skip the pancetta and add a tablespoon of brown miso with the vegetables.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced pancetta
1 large shallot, minced
2 cups fresh fava beans (shelled, blanched and peeled)
2 cups corn kernels (cut from about 3 ears)
1 large red pepper, roasted, peeled and cut into thin strips
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt, a dash of cayenne and white pepper and fresh grating of nutmeg to taste
- Cook the pancetta over high heat for a few minutes until it begins to brown.
- Add the shallot, cooking if for about a minute so it softens
- Add the corn and beans, cooking them just until they are heated through—about three to five minutes.
- Add the cream, bring to a boil and then quickly lower the heat and let everything simmer for about 10 minutes or until the cream becomes more of a coating than a sauce.
- Taste the succotash and add salt if necessary (the pancetta is already salty, so be sure to taste first). Add a pinch of ground cayenne pepper and white pepper to provide a bit of warmth (both optional), grate on a bit of nutmeg, mix thoroughly, remove from the heat and serve as soon as possible.
© Copyright 2003, Richard L. Chase
Posted on May 26, 2003 @ 09:11 PM
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