Any seasoned New Years resolution maker knows that the secret to feeling good about yourself in the days and weeks to come is to make at least one resolution that you know you can keep. This year, among the more challenging against-my-nature changes I set out to make in the ongoing crusade toward self perfection, I resolved to cook more for my family and friends. Since I live in a back house behind my sister and her boyfriend, both of whom are, from what I can tell, always hungry, and since my love of cooking far exceeds the amount I can eat, this isn't going to be a difficult resolution to keep.
This week, for instance, I made roasted acorn squash, two types of cabbage, shallots, carrots, potatoes, and kale. (No, not together.) I slowly simmered a tiny pot of garlic cloves in olive oil until they were golden, sweet, and spreadable. (Here's how.) I made a big pot of chicken stock; I roasted a whole chicken, and, let me just tell you, that was good. But nothing was more popular among the hungry throngs than the pot of good ol' lima beans I stewed in the "flame" Le Creuset Dutch Oven that I inherited from my step-dad last year.
A lot of people say they hate lima beans, but I think I could convert any hater with this recipe, which has a savory broth from the olive oil, chicken stock, sweet onions, and garden trimmings (aka herbs) that I throw into the mix as the beans are simmering. If you are already a lima lover, rock on. And if you don't then, let's just say, for argument's sake, that, like me, you made a New Year's resolution to be open minded.
Lima Beans for the Open Minded
Feeds 6 to 8 hungry, grateful individuals
20 ounces (1 1/4 pounds) lima beans (I used Zersun Christmas lima beans), soaked overnight (or for as long as you're willing to wait. I was only willing to wait 2 hours. Patience is another of my resolutions, but one I am less likely to keep.)
2 big yellow onions, diced
5 or 10 peeled garlic cloves, minced or grated on a Microplane
Smoked ham shank or ham hock (optional; I mean, I guess)
3 quarts chicken stock (or water), plus more as needed
Optional things to float in your limas while they cook (These are things to throw in the pot if you have them, but don't run out and buy them if you don't.)
- Arbol chile pod (I keep a jar in my pantry to throw into soups and braises; you should to)
- Fresh rosemary sprig or a handful of fresh thyme sprigs (what can I say: I have an outdoor patio garden at my SoCal cottage)
- Fresh bay leaf (see garden, above)
Garlic Confit (optional for floating on the finished beans)
Pour enough olive oil in a big Dutch oven or another pot suitable for cooking beans or soup. Add the onion, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring so they don't brown. Add the garlic and another pinch of salt and cook for a minute or two until it smells like garlic. Don't let it brown. (Brown garlic is bitter garlic. Don't. Brown. The. Garlic.) Add the beans, lamb shank, 2 quarts of stock, and the chile pod, rosemary, thyme, and/or bay leaf. Bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans, adding more stock as they beans absorb it, until they're tender and not remotely chalky in the middle. (Al dente is great for pasta, not great for beans.) This will take between 1 and 3 hours depending on how fresh the beans and how long you soaked them.
Serve the beans just as they are, or, if you're like me and insist on adding one more thing in the constant pursuit of ultimate deliciousness, drizzle some good The beans will continue to absorb liquid as they sit so add more stock or water when you reheat them to make them as brothy as you want them.