I love fava beans. They're so darned cute and tasty. And they're such a pain in the butt to prep. But as legendary farmer Dominic of Muzzi Farm's explained to me in his thick Italian accent: Those things that take time to prepare are always worth the effort.
I'm not sure if he was really referring to farming or shelling pounds of beans. Nonethess, I'd have to agree. Fava beans are worth it. And I look forward to them every summer.
And I always look forward to talking with Dominic who has been farming in Northern California for at least half a century. He's got great stories to tell about his family's migration from Southern Italy to America.
Fava beans and radish are a common pairing. I've eaten many herb salads with shaved radish and favas. Not so common is the use of watermelon radish which is often difficult to find, but it's so pretty and spicy that it makes any dish pop with color and flavor.
Beurre blanc is one of the great French sauces mostly used for fish made of a white wine, vinegar, and shallot reduction finished with a ton of butter.
I mean a TON of butter – about two sticks of butter for one cup of wine reduction.
There is no cream in beurre blanc. None, zip, zilch. If you add cream to stabilize it, then you're cheating!!!! It should taste and look creamy but it is a butter sauce, not a cream sauce. I've written in my tricks for keeping the sauce stabilized in the recipe sans cream.
I've been trekking out to Dominic's Farm for peas, strawberries and corn since I was a little girl. He's located at 950 La Honda Road, just east of the San Gregorio Store along the beautiful Northern California coastline, and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
Look for the hand painted signs, pull in at the shed, and don't be surprised if two happy ferocious looking farm dogs run up to greet you!
Fava Beans, Watermelon Radish, Halibut with Beurre Blanc Sauce
5 pounds fava beans
3 watermelon radishes
4 sprigs tarragon
10 sprigs chervil
1.5 pounds of halibut (more or less, depending on how hungry you are)
2 cups white wine (muscadet or chardonnay)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (sometimes I leave this out if I want a sweeter sauce)
1 large shallot, chopped
2 1/2 sticks COLD salted butter (you might not need all of it)
fleur de sel
Preheat oven to 400˚F
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. The salt will give flavor to the beans and help to retain their bright green color. Shell the pods and toss the beans in the boiling water. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove beans and cool in an ice bath immediately. Slip beans out of their protective skins by pressing on one end of the bean. Reserve.
2. Carefully peel the outer tough skin of the watermelon radish keeping it's circular shape in tact. Slice thin on a mandoline or by hand. Wrap in a wet paper towel and reserve in the fridge.
3. Chop the herbs and set aside.
4. In a medium sauce pot on medium heat, sweat the shallots with 1T of butter. Add the white wine and vinegar and reduce to one cup or until it is slightly syrupy. Keep reduction warm until the fish is done cooking.
5. In an oven-safe skillet heat 1T of olive oil on medium high heat. When oil shimmers add fish, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes. Pop pan in oven and cook for 5 minutes more (depending on thickness of fish). To test for done-ness press down on fish, it should feel firm and spring back easily.
6. Remove fish from oven and keep warm. Toss fava beans with a little olive oil, herbs, and fleur de sel. Spoon onto a plate and top with radish slices. (If you want you can re-heat the beans, but it's summer and I don't mind them room temp.)
7. Turn the heat up back to medium-high under the wine reduction. Once it is boiling remove from heat and whisk in the butter cube by cube. DON'T STOP WHISKING. Keep adding butter until the consistency is of cold olive oil. Strain into smaller sauce pot and keep warm over very LOW heat.
8. Place fish on top of radishes and drizzle beurre blanc over everything – a little goes a long way. Garnish with chervil and radish.
Cook's Notes: Finish beurre blanc with butter right before serving. Many chefs will scoff at my other trick but I learned it in France and so far it has always brought great results: I use salted butter.
The reason I do this is that salted butter doesn't separate as fast as unsalted butter (or so I've been told). I've also found that you can cook with it at higher temperatures before it burns. Fact or fiction I don't know, but it works for me and I've never found the sauce too salty.