Flageolet with Fennel and Feta

Flageolet beans w fennel and Feta

I send Mr TBTAM to the market for French Le Pay lentils yesterday, and he returned instead with French flageolet.

It’s partly my fault. After all, he did call me from the store to be sure he had the right brand. My mistake was assuming he knew what a lentil was, and instead focusing on making sure that what he was buying was actually imported from France. He said the word flageolet, and even spelled it out for me. I had no idea what flageolet meant, but it sure sounded French to me, and thinking it was a lentil brand name, I approved the purchase.

Only when he got them home did I discover that flageolet are not a lentil brand, but a type of bean. And not just any bean, but a small, buttery bush bean plucked from the pod while still young and delicate. Sort of the veal of the bean family, but without the force feeding or animal cruelty.

Flageolet beans

Flageolet have been called the “caviar of beans”. I’m not sure I’d go that far – a bean is after all just a bean. And truth be told, I still love the stronger flavor of a good lima bean more than any other legume. But flageolet are a really nice alternative to white beans, and the small size is just lovely.

How I cooked and served my flageolet

I eschewed the overnight soak, instead following Epicurious’s recommended method of bringing the beans and water to a quick boil, then letting them soak for just an hour. Then I added salt and a bay leaf, brought the beans to a boil again and simmered for one and a half hours, till a blow on a spoonful of beans loosened the skin and I knew they were done and ready to be drained. (I saved the bean water to be used as a chicken stock alternative).

While the beans were cooking, I sauteed a diced onion with diced carrots and celery and 4 cloves minced garlic in a few tbsp of olive oil. I had a large piece of chicken, some braised fennel and a few cooked clementine slices leftover from last nights dinner – Ottolenghi’s Chicken with arak and clementines.  I chopped that up and added it to the sauteed veggies, along with the now cooked and drained beans, and finished it all off with some low fat feta, lots of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. A side of cucumber salad was the perfect accompaniment.

Perhaps a better approach

Ina Garten has a baked preparation for flageolet that I may try sometime soon. She uses the very same ingredients I used, but sautees her veggies in bacon (oh yeah…), adds rosemary and cooks her beans in the oven using beef stock instead of water and with the veggies and herbs, advising that the mild flavor of the flageolet requires them to be cooked with their accompaniments. She also advises not to add salt till the end of the cooking time, as it toughens the beans – which may explain why I did not find the flageolet to be the buttery consistency I’ve read so much about.

A fortuitous mistake

I’m so glad Mr TBTAM got it wrong at the market yesterday. Flageolet are a wonderful bean, a great alternative to white beans, and are now a staple in my pantry.

How do you serve your flageolet?


Some flageolet serving ideas from around the web

3 Responses to Flageolet with Fennel and Feta

  1. I use Deborah Madison’s recipe from one of the Greens cookbooks – baked with onions and artichoke hearts, topped with chèvre and breadcrumbs. In regular rotation at our house, made with frozen artichoke hearts.

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