Beans are good for the heart, and a bean is a bean is a bean, isn’t that so? The Lamon beans were a first for me and when the grocer recommended them as being special, I was drawn to nodding and answering, “Yes, yes, I know. I know. They’re famous.” I am not one to tell lies, even white lies, and so I found it disturbing to be commenting on a bean whose name sounded most familiar but whose description refused point blank to reveal itself from the mists of my memory’s furthest reaches. And then I realised, aha! It wasn’t the bean that I had “remembered”, no, it was a character from one of my favourite films, the infamous Lina Lamont from “Singing in the Rain”. Well … do admit … Lamont and Lamon are pretty close in assonance, no? Here is a little clip from the film:
Anyway, though the Lamon bean hails from the Veneto up in the North of Italy, I was out to make something pricelessly Roman: beans with pork rind. My grandmother, Nonna Giuseppina, used to make fagioli con le cotiche but I couldn’t remember her recipe and so I asked the pork butcher to help me out. He lent a lot of gravitas to the procedure of cooking the rind before adding it to the bean stew. I didn’t know how much to buy, he suggested 600g and that is the amount I bought … for the princely sum of Eu 2.80. So … no breaking of banks involved. The lamon beans came at Eu 7.00 per kg. I mention these prices to underscore, if ever I needed to, that Italian food is not just tasty … it also ranks at the top of the good husbandry score. The recipe does take a long time to prepare but is essentially fuss free and easy. It is the stuff of the slow cooking cartel and can be prepared one day in advance.
The first “chore” is to soak the beans in plenty (plenty!) of water for 24 hours.
Discard the water and refresh with more water. Cook until tender … which can take about to 2 to 3 hours. I didn’t add any salt or other ingredient to the water.
After a while, the beans will give off some “foam” … skim it off and throw it away. Here is the pork rind … all 600g of it. It was awfully long, so I cut it into strips. I brought some water to the boil, added the pork rind, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Some recipes call for throwing the water away after a few minutes and then using fresh water. There is no need for this kind of ablution in this recipe. And this is how the pork rind looked after 30 minutes. I switched off the heat and left the pork rind there for now. Here are most of the ingredients for the sauce: olive oil, carrot, celery, onion, tomato sauce and tomato paste. I ended up not using the fresh tomatoes … they were not necessary in the end. The last ingredient but a most important one is the guanciale, pork jowl. I suppose that pancetta would do too.
And now for a little bit of prepping:
Cut the guanciale into matchstick shapes … Drizzle the bottom of a clay cooking pan with plenty of olive oil (lard may be used instead). Add the diced veggies — carrot, onion and celery.Turn the heat on now and add the guanciale and a few peppercorns … you could also add chilli flakes instead. Cook all of this on a medium flame for a few minutes and sprinkle some salt. While the soffritto is cooking, cut up the cooked pork rind into strips. I can’t tell you how much to use — that is a question of personal taste. All I can say is that I probably used 300g of pork rind for 1 kg of lamon beans. Add the “cotiche” (the pork rind cut into strips) to the soffritto and increase the heat a little so that any residue of water will evaporate. Add the cooked beans … and combine. Add the tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro) … Sprinkle plenty of salt, give it a good stir with a wooden spoon, and taste. Add more salt if necessary. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, which will give the tomato sauce the chance to soak up some flavours. Now add a few ladles of the water that the beans had cooked in. Enough water to cover the beans. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until you feel that the beans are delightfully “done”. These Lamon beans don’t fall apart easily! As it happened, I was having family around for supper later that evening and so I transferred my fagioli con le cotiche to a bean pot that was given to us by my husband’s aunt who lives in Piedmont, also made of clay. When it was time to serve the beans …
And here is the wondrous pot with the wondrous fagioli con le cotiche.
And today I had some as leftovers … that green thing is a bay leaf.
It might interest the reader to know that in Roman slang the expression “mica t’ho detto cotica!” which literally translates as “Oi! I didn’t call you pork rind or anything!” is uttered when you think someone is being a bit “chippy”, chip on the shoulder about something, or unduly sensitive as it were. This is an earthy dish, a voluptuously satisfying one if you can shoulder pork rind.
Here is a link to details of the lamon bean: