Bean Cuisine I: Country French Flageolet Stew

This is the first foray into inventing new ways to eat beans: flageolet beans with a country French flavor utilizing what was in my pantry.

So, I vowed as I was packing my pantry to create a new bean dish a week once I was settled, in order to pare down the collection of legumes lurking in my cabinets. Well, I am somewhat settled, and though the legumes are lurking not as planned in a pantry, but intsead are still in boxes in the basement, it does not matter. It is time, high time, to start consuming the wee dried beasties.

So, in order to make something delicious to go with Zak’s latest boule of cardamom-scented bread, and in order to feed the in-laws who are really into hearty stews and soups, I dragged out a pound of flageolet and proceeded to dig around in the freezer and spice cabinet to see what I had that would go with them.

Zak’s latest boule: a cardamom-scented bread. He was pleased with the slashings. He did not use a lame, but a special folding utility knife we bought at the hardware store–it is sharper than the lame and the cuts are cleaner.

This version of the bread used only all-purpose flour and kamut. Here you can see how it results in a fine textured crumb. I prefer the versions with the bread flour in addition to the other flours; I like the chewier texture with the large irregular bubbles in the bread. I think it is more interesting, but Zak likes them both, so I guess we will alternate between versions.

While I had some delicious locally made spicy sausages and produced hickory smoked ham, I was lacking in duck and lamb, so there would be no real cassoulet. Which is fine: I felt no need to spend days making the dish. The idea is to use up beans, not exhaust myself cooking. Besides, I am supposed to be -creating- new dishes, not recreating authentic ones.

So, the spicy pork sausages and ham were in, the duck and lamb were out.

Leeks were abundant in the refrigerator, as were carrots. I had both fresh and dried mushrooms, dry red wine and plenty of sage, thyme, rosemary, lavender, and French basil. Most excellent. And green and black peppercorns. And bay leaves. So, all of those were pulled out and arrayed on the counter.

I also had some oil-cured sundried tomatoes. That sounded tasty to me, so out they came.

You will note a distinct absence of fresh garlic; Tessa’s stomach reacts badly to garlic, so I decided to leave it out of the equation, even though my instinct is to put it in everything but desserts. With all of the leeks, there was no real need for the garlic, but if you cannot live without it, get on with your bad self and throw some in. Just don’t invite Tessa over.

I cooked this in the crockpot, as we were going out all day. It turned out divine when cooked low and slow. Another way to do it would be in a covered casserole or Le Creuset dutch oven in a very low oven for a long time.

Here is the recipe:

Country French Flageolet and Pork Stew


4 tablespoons olive oil
3 fresh leeks, sliced thinly, rinsed and dried
1 slice smoked ham, cut into cubes
1/2 pound spicy fresh pork sausages (I used locally produced “Cajun style” bratwursts”), removed from the casing and sliced
black pepper to taste
2 fresh portabello mushroom caps, gills removed, and cut in half then sliced thinly
6 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in red wine, then squeezed out, stemmed and cut into quarters
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 bay leaf
6 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, diced finely
wine from mushroom soaking and another 1/4 cup or so of it
1 pound flageolet beans picked over and rinsed, then drained
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup baby carrots cut into round chunks


In a large saute pan or skillet, heat up oil until it is smoking. Add leeks, and saute until they begin to turn golden. Add ham chunks and sausage, then the portabello mushroom slices. Cook, stirring, until everything takes on a nice golden brown color and smells really good.

Add Chinese mushrooms, and all the herbs and spices, the bay leaf and the tomatoes. Cook another couple of minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine from the mushroom soaking and some extra wine. If you want to add more than a 1/4 cup extra, that is fine with me–do what you need to do to make the dish really tasty. Have a sip of wine while you are at it. You have to make sure it is good, after all.

Allow alcohol to simmer off of the wine. Stand over it while it is cooking and breathe deeply. You have to make sure it smells right, after all.

When the steam coming off the dish no longer has a distillery scent to it, take it off the heat and dump it in the crock of a large crockpot. Add beans and broth. Put crock into heating base, turn heat up to desired temperature (depending on how fast you want it to cook) and put the lid on and walk away. Oh, and make sure the crock pot is plugged in. Someone in my family forgot to plug in the crock pot and then wondered why it didn’t quite work right.

Come back about halfway through the cooking process. Add the carrot slices. Make sure you have enough liquid in there. If not, add some broth, some water or wine. Wine is best.

Put the lid back on and walk away and come back when it is done. Serve with a nice salad and a crusty bread.

When it is done, it is not pretty. The red wine messed up the pretty celadon color of the beans, and the entire thing is a rather orangish beige color. But it smells really good and has a lot of very distinct flavors and textures happening which come together into a really nice melange.

The fact that it was not pretty was mediated by the beautiful composed salad with the pansies and the beautiful bread.

I guess I should work on making up bean recipes that not only taste good, but look good, too. Hrm.

We’ll see what I come up with this week.


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  1. Your beans look delicious, Barbara! I’m not sure that we’ve ever cooked with flageolets though. I looked in the Cook’s Thesaurus. We usually use great northerns or navy beans when white beans are called for.

    And lovely looking bread once again. I prefer the irregular holes as well but I would still love to know the ingredients for the cardamom bread. I assume that it has a preferment? Is it a poolish type or a biga preferment?


    Comment by ejm — April 20, 2005 #

  2. I love the simple stews of the French…they tend to be so savory, moreso than the stews I grew up with.

    B, my mouth is watering. 😉

    Comment by Kate — April 21, 2005 #

  3. Barbara, your posts never cease to inspire 🙂 Mike and I love reading your informational and entertaining posts!

    The beans look so scrummy!

    Comment by stef — April 21, 2005 #

  4. Zak tells me that it is a sponge, and he always starts it the night before and leaves it in the fridge. At some point next week, I will give the recipe for it; he based it on a recipe from Rose’s Bread Bible, but he has fiddled with it and he has a technique that he follows, so it is a bit different than the way she does it.

    Great northern or navy beans would be great in the dish, too, Elizabeth. I just like to cook with flageolets because they have an ultra creamy texture and when you cook them without a lot of strongly colored things, they sometimes will keep the pale greenish tint, and I find that to be interesting.

    Kate–I have a soft spot for country stews–of all kinds, though I do tend to use a French technique pretty often, because it was beaten into my head in culinary school. And, because I grew up watching Julia on the television.

    And, because I really love leeks…almost as much as I love my ramps.

    Glad to get those saliva glands up and running for you.

    Steph, I am glad to know that you and Mike are enjoying my blog. I do try to both inform and entertain; back when I was a journalism major in college, my Reporting 201 professor used to read my weekly beat reports to his wife over Sunday brunch, because they thought they were so funny. They were funny because I had a boring beat to cover (The Community College–a hotbed of action) and so I never had much to report that I did trying to cover it during the week. Except that I was desperate to cover something, because I had to have 20 published clips by the end of the semester. So, I was really trying to think of something to write about, and my beat report, instead of being a dull log of the exciting stories I covered was a journal of my manic attempts of cover events that were dull beyond all comprehension–too dull to print, really, and so they were exciting.

    When I teach, I have found that humor sets people at ease, keeps them loose and relaxed and able to learn. Besides, people who are laughing and having a good time will remember what I teach better than people I put to sleep, you know?

    Speaking of sleep–I might should maybe go and have some of that. I am beginning to blither.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — April 22, 2005 #

  5. Yes, I really love the creamy texture of the larger beans like Great Northerns. Tonight we’re having chili con carne that I made with navy, pinto, kidney and black beans….

    That would be terrific to see the cardamom bread recipe, Barbara! I look forward to it. In the summer time, I leave sponges in the fridge too. But in winter (and even now) I just leave them on the counter overnight.

    This is reminding me that it’s high time I made a French-style boule. It uses TWO preferments – a poolish (rather spongelike but a little gloppier) and a much stiffer bigalike piece of dough. the resulting bread is really great – based on a recipe for Acme’s Rustic Baguettes in Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer.


    Comment by ejm — April 22, 2005 #

  6. Leaving a sponge on the counter overnight would not work in our house, Elizabeth. We have cats, several of whom love to eat bread. Like seriously love it.

    The little raiders would be in the sponge, and there would be none left by morning, no doubt.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — April 25, 2005 #

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