One of my father’s summer culinary memories from his childhood is a very simple and rustic dish: young giant white beans cooked with slices of bacon and then served with fried onions and a lot of butter. Those beans are commonly called in Polish “fasola Jaś”.
It was not easy to find the English name for those beans. I raised the question on one Polish culinary forum to help me find a proper translation. Here are their suggestions:
- Butter Beans;
- Lima Beans;
- Broad Beans;
- Jack Beans;
- White Emergo Beans
- Giant Beans
- Jaś Karłowy Runner Bean
- Elephant Beans
It is not surprising that one can be lost in this nomenclatural mess, as Julia Child was lost while trying to find English equivalents for French names of fish when she had been working on her first book.
To make a long story short, following the Official Journal of the European Union, it seems that “Jaś Karłowy Runner Bean” (Phaseolus coccineus) is the official English name. It is a regional product, cultivated in southern Poland, in the Nida and Wisła lowland. Probably it still does not ring a bell. Thanks to readers of the Polish culinary forum, I found out that this type of local giant beans may be replaced, for example, by White Emergo Beans.
Those beans are very popular in Poland. One can buy them dry all year round in nearly every shop. They are white, oval, a bit flat, usually 2 to 3 cm long. They contain a lot of protein, minerals (phosphorus and calcium) and vitamins.
On the opposite, young and fresh butter beans are available only in summer time, in August, and they are not so common, as opposed to dry ones. They are covered by a thin, white skin. Fresh seeds are light green. Their taste is not as floury as the one of dried white beans and you do not have to soak them in water, which is the reason that usually prevents me from preparing dishes with dried beans.
I am ashamed that, until last May, I had no idea that those beans were available fresh in the summer. Or rather my father should be ashamed, when he reproached me once: “And why don’t you cook fresh runner beans”? He asked. “What? Green runner beans? What are you talking about?” – I yelled. It was obvious that I had to find those beans once they would be in season. And here you have them.
This recipe is based on my grandma’s preparation, which was transmitted to me by my father. I served them with fried baby ceps (boletus), which appeared two weeks ago on a local food market. I could not refrain from adding some fresh thyme and grilling an extra 2 slices of bacon.
White “Jaś Karłowy” Runner Beans with Fried Ceps
300 g white fresh Jaś Karłowy Runner Beans (which you can replace with any other fresh white beans)
300 g fresh ceps (boletus)
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 big garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices bacon
Prepare the beans: place the beans and 2 slices of bacon in a saucepan and cover with water (1 cm above the level of beans). Add some salt and cook (under the cover) until soft, but not overcooked (depending on the size of the beans, between 30 minutes and one hour). You really have to taste them. Strain them. Discard cooked bacon or use it for another purpose.
Prepare the mushrooms: Delicately clean mushrooms from leftovers of the forest. Scratch the stems to remove soil. Rinse the mushrooms delicately under cold water. Cut some mushrooms in halves, should some of them be too big. They all should be about the same size, so they will fry evenly. In a hot frying pan, melt butter, add onions and cook over medium flame for 5 minutes. Add garlic and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. Do not let onions and garlic burn. Add mushrooms into the frying pan and sauté them over medium flame until they release their juices and absorb them back in. In the meantime, in a small frying pan, grill slices of bacon until gold and crispy. Add thyme, salt and pepper generously, stir and add beans. Serve immediately with grilled bacon on top accompanied with slices of some good grilled bread.