My mother tells me, often now, that when I was a child, I would no more have eaten a butter bean or a field pea than a piece of shoe leather. She marvels every time I serve, write about or just generally express appreciation for the glories I now see in them. But she never turns down a dish that I make. And this one has become a family favorite. I mean, juicy butter beans, creamy sauce, gooey cheesy, a dash of lemon – what’s not to love.
Though I am always looking for new and interesting ways to cook with these jewels, I tend to lean in the direction of simmering beans and peas with cured pork. But I love the difference here, the sauce that coats the butterbeans is rich and creamy, but really fresh because of the lemon. The crispy bread crumb topping adds a great textural contrast as well. And it can easily be made ahead to serve hot and bubbly at the table. I put lots of fresh butter beans up in the freezer in summer and use them in this dish year round.
- 1 pound fresh butter beans
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
- Soak the butter beans in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Skim off any floaters and pick out any damaged beans. Drain the beans and put into a large saucepan. Cover with fresh water by about ½ an inch, bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes until the beans are tender, but with a little bite to them. You can cook a bit longer if needed. Drain the beans.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet, then whisk in the flour until smooth and white. Pour in the milk slowly, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest, about 1 teaspoon salt and several generous grinds of black pepper. Cook, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the cooked butter beans. Taste the beans, and add salt if needed. These beans can take quite a bit of salt. Layer one half of the creamy beans in a greased 8 by 8 inch casserole. Sprinkle over the cheese, the gently spread the remaining beans over the cheese.
- Mix the bread crumbs, parsley a dash of salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until combined. Spread the breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole.
- The beans can be cooled, covered and refrigerated overnight if needed. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the casserole until it is hot through, bubbling around the edges and browned on the top, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
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