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Beaten by a bean | Manolo's Food Blog

Beaten by a bean

When Mrs. Henry decided on a whim to hop a flight to San Diego, the Henry household was left to its own devices, that is, with Mr. Henry firmly, if temporarily, in command. Trying not to be alarmed by this sudden absence of leadership in battle, Mr. Henry swore a silent oath to provide Little Henry with first quality hot dinners each and every night. ground beef 1.jpg

The first night Mr. Henry bought his ultimate quick fix solution – grass-fed, organic, Australian ground sirloin at Citarella – the world’s best hamburger. Served on a toasted brioche roll alongside baked new potatoes and Ceasar salad, accompanied by a glass of Dolcetto, all was bliss.

His more serious efforts the following evening succeeded remarkably well. A whole roast chicken rubbed with butter and salt, stuffed with apple and fresh sage, and after 30 minutes basted with Madeira emerged succulent and aromatic. Plain baked yams provided a colorful accompaniment as did toasted okra and sauteed French string beans topped with chopped cilantro. A chunky apple sauce made with fresh orange juice in lieu of water won the evening. For wine Mr. Henry chose a cold, tart Vouvray.

The next night Mr. Henry bought fat lamb chops longing for a rub of herbs de provence and gray sea salt. Broiled and allowed to rest for a good 20 minutes, they were divine. A salad of Israeli cucumbers, dill, yogurt and sour cream sat up perkily on the plate. Pears poached in wine from the Languedoc were the perfect finish.


However, in the thrill of finding such perfect lamb chops, Mr. Henry over-reached and met with tragedy. He is accustomed to using canned flageolets. (Fresh ones have always been hard to find.) At Citarella he stumbled upon some dried ones. Rushing home after lunch he threw them in a pot of water to soak. After an hour they had swelled by at least one third. Mr. Henry made the fateful decision to use them that very evening.

A survivor of many an undercooked chili from his college days, he knew that dried beans need to soak overnight. Yet here were flageolets already deceptively green and seemingly compliant. Despite hours on the stove that night and the following night as well, however, they never yielded.

Beaten by a bean. Next time he’ll stick to lentils. They don’t need to soak so long.

A note on grass-fed beef: Less fatty than corn-fed, it consequently cooks more quickly. The best way to tell if it’s cooked is to poke it with your finger. When it begins to resist your touch, take it out of the skillet and let it rest. The taste improves dramatically when the juices have stopped running.cucumbers2.jpg

Cucumber salad

8 Israeli cucumbers, cored and coarsely grated
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
½ cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon sour cream

Mr. Henry prefers to use the food processor. It grates them coarsely but uniformly. He adds several pinches of salt, covers and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to serve, squeeze all the water from the cucumbers and mix everything together.

12 Responses to “Beaten by a bean”

  1. Twistie October 11, 2007 at 12:05 pm #

    How many an otherwise fine cook has been felled by beans that taunt him/her with their seeming readiness? The field is littered with their menus and their tattered dreams.

    Reminder to self: try the cucumber salad recipe. Sounds delicious in the extreme! And Mr. Twistie of the innumerable food fears would probably eat it, too.

    (dreams of lamb chops and baked yams and other fine things Mr. Twistie will not consume on pain of death)

  2. Glinda October 12, 2007 at 3:02 pm #

    This is similiar to a recipe I use, the fresh dill makes the dish.

  3. nancy October 13, 2007 at 1:23 pm #

    After spending time in Argentina (1 month) and France (3 years) where I was surrounded by the worlds largest consumers of meat, who were also thin enough to be runway models, I discoved the virtues of grass fed beef. For years I couldn’t find it at my local markets and now, thank god, I can finally buy it at my local Ralph’s. I’m convinced that if Americans didn’t consume meat that is contaminated with hormones and grain, they would be thin like the French.

  4. fressack October 14, 2007 at 3:08 am #

    So, how did little Henry like the cilantro?

  5. Mr. Henry October 14, 2007 at 8:10 am #

    Touché! Caught by an eagle-eyed parent, no doubt.

    Although Little Henry likes cilantro in guacamole and even on tomatoes in lieu of basil, she did not opt to adorn a mild flavor like french beans with a strong one.

    Cilantro cuts curiously across cultural boundaries. Chinese and Japanese despise it. Moroccans and Mexicans adore it. It’s essential to Southeast Asian cuisine. In recent European recipes, cilantro seems to have snuck in through the side door.

  6. la petite chou chou October 14, 2007 at 11:50 am #

    Ah ha! Further evidence that I WAS Japanese in a past life. I can’t stand ciliantro even though my dad loves it and whether little Henry liked it was also going to be my first question.

    That chicken dish, however, makes me want Christmas to roll around all the faster. My father does a German turkey which is stuffed with apple, cranberries, and ground beef, and the whole turkey is layered in bacon while it’s in the oven. It gives it that unhealthy deliciousness that only bacon can…

  7. Mr. Henry October 14, 2007 at 12:08 pm #

    Ach! Mr. Henry forgot to say that for his whole roast chicken he draped four slices of bacon over the breast so that he wouldn’t have to baste.

    Perhaps he was German in a past life………or a present one.

  8. la petite chou chou October 14, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    mmm. Bacon…

  9. JaneC October 15, 2007 at 8:58 am #

    Personally, I made beans with bacon this week. Being a graduate student, the inexpensive bean is a dietary staple, but two dollars’ worth of bacon added to the 99-cent package of beans makes all the difference. And of course there’s vegetables cooked in the bacon grease left behind from frying the bacon before putting it in the bean pot. Excellent.

  10. dashwood October 15, 2007 at 2:58 pm #

    i believe Mr. Henry ran afoul of lentils sometime in his past life. but that story is best left out of polite conversation. let’s say– beans 2, Mr. Henry ?.


  11. Mr. Henry October 15, 2007 at 6:55 pm #

    Dear Dashwood,

    Oh my. Mr. Henry had nearly forgotten the youthful episode when he arrived all gussied up to spend the evening “at home” with a first date, a Hollywood actress.

    The imminent prospect of success stirred something deep inside him, namely, the Moroccan lentil soup he had been eating for the prior three days straight. Once the atmosphere between them had been compromised, the relationship was dashed, indeed.