Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sufferin' Succotash

I think we all have a vegetable that scarred us as a child. It was the one our parents forced us to eat even when we pleaded to them that it would make us puke. They typically didn't buy it so we were left with no other option but to ingest as little as possible. For me it was brussels sprouts but I admit that I was a pretty picky eater so I had more than one vegetable on my "will not eat" list. For Russ it was definitely lima beans, which surprisingly I actually enjoyed eating. 

When I think of lima beans, I think of succotash, the stewed combination of tomatoes, lima beans and corn. And then, of course, I think of poor Sylvester the Cat in his exasperated state exclaiming, "Thufferin' thuccotash." There is nothing really suffering about succotash — unless you're a lima bean hater. It's a Southern staple, I think, because those vegetables are so easily canned. My grandmother was a canning machine! I remember being a child and walking into her pantry. There were rows and rows of canned vegetables from the floor to the ceiling. At the time I was wondering if there was some disaster on the way she was preparing for. I've never had an interest in canning, probably because we're lucky enough to have access to an extensive array of fresh produce almost year-round. I'll definitely take fresh over canned any day!  

With fresh corn showing up at the Farmers Market, I got a hankering for succotash. But I knew I needed to make some adjustments. I recalled having a delicious succotash served with a braised duck breast once. The duck was delicious but the succotash is what I still remember all these years later. I found a recipe that conjured up the dish and thought I'd give it a try. 

Firstly, fava beans replaced the limas. Secondly, I bailed on the tomatoes, which sometimes give the dish too much of an acidic twist for me.  And I personally think stewed tomatoes can taint the beauty of the dish because everything turns kind of a weird shade of pink when coated in bits of tomato flesh.  

I added mushrooms which don't make it in a traditional Southern rendition but gives it some meatiness. I do need to acknowledge that this particular version does not qualify as a 30-minute meal, so make it on a day when you're trying to procrastinate. It uses roasted carrots and fava beans, which in my opinion are soooo worth the time and effort. The carrots add a sweetness to the dish that goes well with the milky corn and is a nice contrast to the earthy mushrooms. Favas are just incredible in this but shelled edamame would be a delicious and healthy substitution. To enhance the flavors, chervil is used, which is a staple in French cooking. It's actually a member of the carrot family and tastes somewhere between parsley and anise. The flavor is subtle though, often playing in the background, but really adds something special to dishes.  Often used to flavor eggs (i.e. fines herbes), fish, and sauces (i.e. Bernaise), it's also a tasty addition to herbed butter, mashed potatoes and cream cheese spreads. It is best used fresh as high heat can kill its flavor. 

I honestly think this makes a nice vegetarian meal in of itself but this time I topped it with seared scallops for some added protein. I think it would work well with fish (i.e. Pacific halibut, U.S. farmed catfish or trout, or white seabass), and be great with grilled meat or duck (which I'm too intimidated to cook at home so typically only eat it in a restaurant). 

To me, this dish is really emblematic of summertime. When the nights are long, the air is warm and the only cooking that seems doable is done outside on the grill. It's great served at room temperature or warm. And is sure to charm even lima bean haters. 

Sweet Corn Succotash
By Michel Nischan

5 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb sea scallops
4 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
1/4 cup sliced shallots
1 cup mushrooms (chanterelle or crimini)
1 cup blanched and peeled fava beans
1 cup diced, roasted carrots (approximately 4 carrots)
Springs of fresh thyme
1 cup grilled sweet corn kernels
2 cups sliced fresh chervil
Salt and pepper

Preheat over to 400 degrees. If carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise. Otherwise, just cut into smaller chunks (several inches long). Toss them in a bowl with 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper and a few fresh thyme sprigs. Transfer to a sheet pan in 1 layer and roast in the over for 20 minutes, until brown and tender. Remove and chop when cooled enough to handle. 
Using a sharp knife cut the corn kernels off 3 ears. If you have a juicer, put them through a juicer. I don't so I just crushed them up as well as I could with a mortar and pestle. Put whatever juice you could get in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until it starts to thicken. Set aside and keep warm.
Heat corn kernels cut from remaining cob in a large saute pan and dry roast until kernels start to brown. Add fava beans and heat for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve in a small bowl. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in same large saute pan over medium high heat. Add shallots and saute until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 4 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and saute until heated through, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables into a medium-sized bowl and toss with some of the warmed sweet corn sauce and chopped chervil (start with a cup and add as desired). Season with salt and pepper. 
Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of scallops. In a medium-sized skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil on high heat and sear the scallops for approximately 2 minutes on each side. 
To serve, please succotash in the center of the plate and top with a few seared scallops. Drizzle some of the remaining corn sauce over the scallops. Yields: 4 to 6 servings

1 comment:

  1. i like your twist on this southern staple! would you believe that most people in my office have no idea what goes into traditional succotash? of course you would--you know what I'm dealing with here. :) excellent recipe, and it's so great to find a kindred spirit.