White Bean Stew with Cured Pork Loin

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Serves: 4

Preparation time: 60 minutes plus overnight soaking if using dry beans

Haricots Blancs à la Villagoise is a real soul food dish for the winter season from the Vaucluse region in the Provence. Coco Beans (Haricots Coco), are grown in the area of Mollans sur Ouvèze in les Baronnies, the beautiful, unspoiled, Pre-Alpine area north of Vaison la Romaine. They arrive at the Provencal markets during late summer to November.

Coco Beans are fresh, white shell beans, almost round. Their green pods turn yellow or red when mature. They are much loved in France and the preferred choice for dishes using white beans. If you can’t get Coco Beans use the Great Northern white beans or Cannellini beans. The cured pork loin is readily available during the winter season as it is used for the ever popular Choucroute Alsacienne.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups (560 g) coco beans (or Great Northern white beans or Cannellini beans)
  • 1 bouquet garni (1 thyme spring, 1 bay leaf, 2-3 parsley stems, 1 winter savory spring
  • all tied in a bundle
  • 1 medium whole onion, studded with two whole cloves
  • 3 cloves of garlic left whole
  • 1 medium sized onion, about 1 cup (8oz) thinly sliced
  • 4 slices of cured pork loin, sliced about 3/8 inches (1 cm) thick
  • 3/4 lbs (345 g) smoked pork sausage (you may use Polish sausage like kielbasa) cut into 3/8 inches (1 cm) slices
  • 2 cups Savoy cabbage cut into strips

Preparation:

Fresh beans do not need overnight soaking. Just add them to the cooking water, onion with cloves, bouquet garni, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook them for about 45 minutes or until almost tender. Then follow instructions on the second paragraph.

If using dry beans, soak them overnight. Next day drain the beans from soaking water and remove any impurities that might be on water’s surface. Place them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring quickly to a boil and cook for 10 min. This pre-cooking will help remove any left over impurities. Drain them again, return them to a pot and cover them with water by a good 1 inch (2 1/2 cm). Add the whole onion studded with cloves, the bouquet garni, the whole garlic, salt, and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour or until the beans are quite done. Cooking time depends on what beans you use.

Meanwhile, sauté the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 10 minutes. When beans are done, drain them but save a bit of water. Discard the whole onion and the bouquet garni. To the beans add the sauté onion, cured pork loin, sausage slices and about 1 cup of the reserved water. Continue simmering the beans and the meat until the beans are ready, soft but not falling apart. If necessary add enough cooking liquid so beans don’t dry out. Beans should retain their form, be tender but not mushy. Add the Savoy cabbage and cook it 5 minutes until barely wilted but still crunchy.

Divide beans and meats on four plates. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. Serve with a crusty bread.

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Coco Beans – Market in Sainte Cecile de la Vignes, Vaucluse, Provence

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