Sunday, March 18, 2012

beans for breakfast

(marrow) bread and butter, (bread and butter) marrow

(marrow) bread and butter, bread and butter (marrow)
For Marx Foods' Beans for Breakfast challenge, the challenge was very simple: use some of the beans they provided, and make breakfast.

I thought of various possibilities, and decided that one of the challenges here is that when you start with dry beans, one of three things is going to be true:

1: You have a very long prep time for your breakfast.
2: You have to plan your breakfast the day before, when you soak and/or cook your beans.
3: Your meal involves pre-cooked beans, but not necessarily beans cooked specifically for this breakfast - leftovers from a previous meal, for instance. Refried beans with breakfast are an obvious example here.

I decided to make pickled beans - they keep, so it's a breakfast you can make any time after you've made the pickled beans, but they're not leftovers from another meal, so you don't need to plan two meals in tandem. Specifically I made bread and butter marrow beans (plump white creamy beans which were very popular in the US in the 19th century, and which are probably originally from the Mediterranean).

"Bread and butter" means a somewhat sweet vinegar pickle, a combination that reminded me of "ploughman's lunch" - an apocryphal lunch of bread, cheese, and relish invented by advertisers to sell cheese in the UK after World War II. Apocryphal or not, that cheese and relish flavor combination is a great one. So already I'm thinking pickled beans, and I'm thinking cheese and bread and Rule Brittania, see.

Which is how I ended up with a breakfast combining Welsh rarebit, pickled beans and onions, deep-fried beef marrow, and a fried egg.

Components, per serving:
One egg
Rye bread, two slices
Bread and butter marrow beans and onions
Beef marrow, one large piece cut in half, or two medium-sized pieces
Welsh rarebit

Bread and butter marrow beans and onions:

Soak marrow beans overnight. Drain soaking liquid and simmer beans in fresh water for an hour to ninety minutes, or until cooked. Make sure the water is well-salted! Let cool in cooking liquid. Remove any broken beans.

It's true that soaking beans isn't mandatory: especially with beans that haven't sat around for years, you can simply cover them with water, boil for five minutes, cover, and simmer for 60-120 minutes. Soaking often leads to a creamier bean, or a bean less likely to break - it's preferred here for these pickled beans.

Slice an onion. Make a bread and butter pickle brine with equal parts sugar and vinegar, a bay leaf, and a pinch each of salt, mustard seed, celery seed, red pepper, black pepper, and ginger.

Cover onion slices and cooked beans with the pickle brine; refrigerate at least overnight or as long as you like.

Welsh rarebit with marrow:

Can be done either right when you're ready to assemble everything, or a day or two in advance, in which case you want to gently reheat and melt the cheese sauce when you're ready to assemble.

Melt a little bit of chopped beef marrow in a pan. Add an equal amount of flour and stir for about one minute. Add a splash of good dark beer (I used Dogfish Head's Burton Baton), a spoonful of prepared mustard, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, a splash of half and half or cream, and enough shredded cheese to bring it all together in a rich cheese sauce.  How much cheese you use will depend somewhat on what kind of cheese you use, and it's moisture level. Expect to use 6-8 ounces for two people.

I used a combination of sharp cheddar and monterey jack, mostly cheddar.

Assembling (marrow) bread and butter with (bread and butter) marrow:

Preheat your broiler and move an oven rack to the highest position.

Preheat a deep-fryer to about 360-370.

Prep your pieces of beef marrow: cover marrow bones in hot water for just a couple minutes, until you can push the marrow out with your thumbs. Immediately remove from water so it doesn't melt. Toss in plain flour.

Prep your rye toast: butter each side of each piece of bread, two pieces of bread per person. Toast the bread on both sides in a frying pan - just like an empty grilled cheese sandwich. That's the texture you want rather than that of toast that has been buttered after the fact, because you want the butter to soak into the bread. Stack the bread up in a broiling pan, two slices of bread per stack.

Warm up the Welsh rarebit if necessary.

Get your onions and beans ready to assemble.

Melt a little butter in a non-stick or cast-iron pan sufficient to fry one egg per person.

Now...all at once:

Pour the cheese sauce on the stacks of toast and put them under the broiler.

Drop the floured beef marrow in the deep-fryer.

Crack the eggs into the hot pan and get them frying.

Pull the cheese-covered bread when it's bubbling - a little browning is fine too! The marrow is ready a minute or two after it floats in the hot fat. The eggs are ready when they're as you like them, but the idea of the dish is to have some runny yolk.

Now assemble: cheese-covered bread, with fried egg, fried marrow, and pickled beans and onions on top.

The final dish has three kinds of oozing and richness: the cheese, the marrow, and the egg yolk. The sharpness of the rye bread, the beer and mustard in the Welsh rarebit, and the pickled beans and onions are your contrasts to that richness.

And yes, because of that richness, especially with the marrow and egg, you really need two pieces of bread per person. That is a must.

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