It’s just a week shy of April, yet temps hover near freezing and the snow still flutters down to add to the 3 – 4 inches that accumulated over night. So, as much as I want to be noshing on crisp pea shoots, chive blossoms, pungent ramps and mild green garlic, it seems that Mother Nature is conspiring against me.
Have you had Christmas lima beans? They are big, meaty beans with a firm texture and a flavor of chestnuts. As wintry as this dish is, with parsnips, chard, meaty lima beans & smoky, spicy pot liquor, it was a pleasant surprise to my Spring-craving palate. I deviated from the original recipe wildly, pulling seemingly random things from my seriously-depleted stores (I’ve missed the farmer’s market for the last 3 or 4 weeks in a row) yet I ended up with a rich, smoky, meaty and satisfying bean dish with enough vegetables to feel healthy, just enough meat to feel satiated, and the surprise crunch & tang of a quick apple relish. It all worked and I will be happy to nosh on the leftovers until Spring’s first green shoots pop their way through the snow.
- 1/2 lb dried Christmas Lima beans, soaked overnight (or for about 6 – 8 hours) in filtered water to cover by 3 inches
- 2 tbsp bacon grease
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced lengthwise
- 1/2 of a dried ancho chile, stemmed, and rehydrated in 1/4 cup boiling water (or 1/4 fresh chile, chopped)
- 1 bay leaf
- filtered water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- about 4 oz Swiss chard, very thinly sliced (fresh or frozen)
Seared Pork Cutlets
- 1/2 lb pork cutlets
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Fresh Apple Relish
- 1 crisp apple (I used Ida Red)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
- pinch salt and black pepper
- Limas. Heat the bacon grease in a large bean pot or Dutch oven until hot, but not smoking. Add parsnip, celery and garlic and sauté over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Pull softened ancho from soaking water (reserve liquid) and chop into small dice; add to vegetables in the pot. Add bay leaf, limas and their soaking water. Add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until just tender, about 1 hour. Add 1/2 tsp salt about halfway through the cooking time.
- Apple Relish. Meanwhile, core and chop apple into 1/4-inch dice. Toss in lemon juice and add parsley, salt & pepper. Toss again to combine and reserve.
- Remove cover from bean pot and increase heat to bring pot liquor to a boil; continue to boil gently to reduce and thicken pot liquor. Add chard, stir and continue to cook at a low boil until chard is wilted and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Taste pot liquor and adjust seasonings; add ancho soaking liquid, salt and/or pepper as desired.
- Pork cutlets. Using a meat mallet (a wine bottle makes a decent substitution), pound pork cutlets between two pieces of waxed paper until about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stainless steel frying pan until shimmering but not smoking. Add cutlets, in batches if necessary (do not crowd the pan) and cook over high heat until cooked through, about 1 minute per side (pork should read at least 140 degrees F on an instant thermometer and little to no pink should remain). Remove to a covered plate to keep warm.
- To serve, ladle beans & chard, with some pot liquor, onto a plate or large, shallow bowl. Top with pork and garnish with apple relish.
- I changed the original recipe quite a bit, based upon the ingredients I had on hand. To try the original, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Heirloom Beans – it does not disappoint!
- The original recipe included 1/2 an onion along with the rest of the aromatics; I had every intention of including an onion, but forgot. Oops. I’m sure it could only improve this already wonderful dish.
- You don’t need a lot of meat for this dish: I added about 2 oz per serving. Honestly, the Christmas limas are so meaty and substantial that they would stand on their own; substitute olive oil for bacon grease and this can easily be a vegetarian dish. You might top it with a marinated portabella, firm tofu or simply skip it and enjoy the beans with apple relish. The apple does give a nice flavor & texture contrast to the beans – I recommend it.
Store beans, in their pot liquor, separately in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Likewise for any leftover pork or apple relish; store separately for best flavor and texture.
Winter into (early, cruel, snowy) Spring.