Francis-Olive’s Chestnut Beans with Bacon & Cavolo Nero

bowlwithbreadOur old friend Francis-Olive, chef, baker, blogger, writer, and experimenter extraordinaire, has cooked up this delicious chilly-day stew using Community Grains’ Chestnut Lima Heirloom Beans. She graciously let us repost the recipe here, but definitely see her original post and her two blogs, Farm to Table Geek and Tartine Bread Experiment, for more details — and lots of mouthwatering photos.

This is a warming, rich bean stew that pairs excellently with salad and crusty bread, like Francis-Olive’s Hard Red Winter Wheat boule.

Francis-Olive’s Chestnut Beans with Bacon & Cavolo Nero
Serves 4
From Farm to Table Geek, by Frances-Olive


1 cup Community Grains Chestnut Lima Heirloom Beans
1 bunch cavolo nero (dinosaur kale)
6 strips of thick cut applewood smoked bacon
1 leek
1 stalk celery
1 medium carrot
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 or two thyme twigs
9 peppercorns
olive oil


The night before: 

Soak the chestnut beans, draining off the water and replenishing with fresh a few times if possible.

On Cooking Day:

Cut 6 slices of bacon into 1/2 wide rectangles. Slowly cook over medium heat in a 3 quart pan until bacon starts to brown but does not burn or crisp.

Meanwhile, prepare a mirepoix: slice the white part of a leek into rectangles, rinse, and set aside. Peel and dice the carrot and celery. The leeks, carrot and celery should be uniform in size. Slice the garlic. Set all aside.

Once the bacon is sufficiently browned and rendered, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon, discard the fat, and deglaze the pot with about 1/3 of a cup of water, scraping up the browned bits. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half.

Add the mirepoix to the pot and cook slowly on low heat until vegetables are soft and translucent but not browned.

Add the tomato paste and kick up the heat a bit. Stirring constantly, cook the paste until it coats the bottom of the pot. This is a delicious, caramelized tomato fond, a base for your stew. Deglaze with about 1/3 of a cup of water, scraping up the caramelized bits in the pot, until the liquid reduces/becomes fully absorbed into the poix.

Drain the beans of their soaking water and add to the pot. Fill the pot with fresh water and bring to a boil.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, make your bouquet garni and bruised peppercorn sack. Pinch together a large bay leaf and an ample twig of thyme. Cut a piece of kitchen twine several inches long. Wrap the end of the twine around the herbs and knot tightly. You should have a long enough tail attached so that you can tie the other end around the pot handle and fully submerge the herbs into the beans. This way, you can just fish out the herbs when the beans are done cooking and snip the twine from the pot handle. No more fishing around for loose thyme twigs and bay leaves.

Next, wrap about 9 black peppercorns in a square of cheesecloth, tie the sack closed with twine, leaving a long tail at the end as you did with the bouquet garni, and bruise the peppercorns with something heavy, like a granite pestle or the back of an iron pan. Tie the loose end to the handle of the pot.

When the beans come to a boil, lower the flame and simmer till the beans are almost tender. When they have about 20 minutes of cooking to go, season the beans with salt.

As the beans are finishing up, slice up a full bunch of cavolo nero (dinosaur kale) and wilt in a separate pan, with a bit of water, which will only take a minute or so.

When the beans are done, kill the flame and stick the end of your submersible blender in the center of the pot. Pulse the stick a few times to emulsify some of the beans, so you have a mix of emulsified and whole beans.

*If there is too much liquid in the pot when they beans are done, don’t toss the liquid. Instead, ladle it out into a pan, heat, and reduce till the liquid thickens quite a bit. Add it back to the pot of beans before you emulsify, which will add amazing flavor.

Stir the wilted cavalo nero into the pot.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a good, spicy olive oil and a shaving of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.

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