At one point during all of our cassoulet preparations, I was speaking to cassoulet expert Kate Hill about beans to use in the iconic dish. Years ago, I used to recommend Flageolet. Kate winced politely. She is very fond of the bean, just not in a cassoulet. She offered instead the advice to brighten them up with a lemon vinaigrette and I took this to heart.
Our new crop of Flageolet beans are in and they’re some of the best we’ve had in years. They are an odd bean. Maybe a little more vegetable-like than most beans, but not like limas or peas. They still are a bean. They have a thick skin but somehow they are delicate at the same time. They’re also extremely mild so they take on whatever you can give them.
I cooked these simply with a bay leaf, and salt once they started to get soft. Conventional wisdom says to dress them while they’re still warm but I had a hunch that I wanted to toss them with a vinaigrette after they’d cooled. I wanted two distinct flavors. Beans and lemons, not lemony beans. Don’t forget the parsley. It’s not just for color.
For the vinaigrette, I pounded a garlic clove with some salt, thyme and then 3 tablespoons or so of fresh lemon juice. Once this was all mashed well, I drizzled in extra virgin olive oil and the sauce emulsified. I think I will try an anchovy filet next time. Of course you can do this in a blender, food processor or just whisk the ingredients but I prefer the drama of a mortar and pestle. You obviously will need to adjust the oil to acid ratio as you see fit but this should be a bright dish.
A lot of people serve fish on Christmas Eve and I think this would be the perfect side dish.