Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eat Seasonal Food - Suffering Succotash

If you are of a certain generation, you immediately think Yosemite Sam when you hear the word succotash. "Mommy was saying the same thing" was my daughter's bit of exasperation when I walked around the kitchen exclaiming, "suffering succotash". Who can make succotash without saying that. Who makes succotash?

Who makes succotash the right way. To the extent that it is eaten, succotash tends to be a bag of Birdseye frozen, corn niblets and starchy limas. It is the latter that give it its bad rap. Why Sam suffered with it. I would guess that most people believe that the corn got there to rescue kidz palates from suffering with too much lima. Local, as always comes to the rescue, that and a bit of tradition.

First, the tradition, how many of you knew that succotash was not just some school cafeteria side but rather an all in one meal. A meal based on what the early settlers in New England saw being eaten by those here ahead of them. Many, but not all, early recipes for succotash included some meat, especially the standard meat of the day, salt pork. A little history can be read here. So, what they saw being eaten was what was in season at that time, fresh beans and sweet corn. As Top Chef Tom Collichio is want to say, what grows together, goes together. You can make a superior succotash if using the season's fresh, fresh beans and fresh corn. Including some pork really makes superior succotash, an all-in-one dish.

I used slab bacon instead of salt pork, what I had around. I also used fresh Illinois crowder beans instead of fresh limas, but I do not think that matters too much. You cook fresh beans in a minimal amount of water (start with cold water); the water should be only about an inch over the beans. The beans need about 15 minutes of cooking once the water comes to a boil, at which time you turn to a simmer. The actual cooking time for the beans will vary based on what fresh bean you use. While the beans are cooking, make lardons of the slab bacon then crisp them up on medium heat in a skillet. Slice an onion. In the bacon grease get the onion a-cooking. A bit of garlic, not too heavy, this is New England cooking, and fresh chile (likewise) add dimension. If your corn is raw, a quick blanch could be done, but really, you could add it raw. The final product is the result of mixing in the beans and corn with the porky goodness. Season to taste, taking into account the saltiness of your pork. Serve with some spiced vinegar.

I suppose a good hard cider would go best, but that's something still for the local wishlist. I drank an Atwater Pilsner brewed in Detroit, Michigan. I toasted our early settlers and the ones here even earlier who inspired and taught this dish. Made proper, no one is gonna suffer with succotash.


kennyz said...

you likely already know this, but fresh limas are indeed available locally. Nichols had a good supply at green city this morning.

sdritz said...

I also saw limas at Nichols yesterday, but opted for the shelly beans, which I had never tried before. They were delicious!

kennyz said...

thanks for the inspiration. I made a delicious 40 minute dinner last night by cooking just-shelled limas in tomato water while sauteeing ground pork and corn together. When the limas were cooked, I added em to the sautee along with some reduced tomato water and a good tablespoon of butter to bring it all together. Even better this morning reheated and topped with a sunnyside up egg.