“Sufferin’ succotash!” Raise your hand if you grew up with Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings. I’m guessing that these days there are more people familiar with Sylvester the cat’s oft-uttered exclamation than there are those who have actually tried the dish. If you are unfamiliar with succotash, according to the The Story of Corn by Betty Fussell, the word “succotash” is derived from a Narragansett indian word for “boiled corn kernels”. And indeed, corn is the central ingredient in this dish. Usually succotash is a combination of corn and lima beans. But if you make it in the late spring, when the first corn comes into the market, and fresh fava beans are on sale, you can make a spring version of this classic recipe that’s terrific.
We decided to make a hearty version of succotash with some diced ham, and add a Mediterranean touch by using olive oil and a little lemon. Mint adds a bright flavor to the dish. We used fresh corn in this recipe, but you could use frozen corn. Fava beans are available at many farmer’s markets or at high-end supermarkets. They require some work to process, but it’s worth it. If fava beans are not available, you can use peas to stay with the spring theme, or use lima beans for a more traditional approach.
Did I mention how good this is? Trust me, it’s good. It’s one of those “you should make this” dishes. I practically ate the whole batch.
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups shucked and shelled fava beans* (can substitute fresh or frozen lima beans or peas)
- 2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
- 2 cups diced ham (check ham ingredients for gluten-free if cooking gluten-free)
- 2 diced carrots
- 2-3 chopped spring onions
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint or parsley
- Juice of a lemon
- Salt to taste
* To get 2 cups of shelled fava beans, start with 3 lbs of whole fava beans. Working over a large bowl, remove the outer shell by bending a pod near one of the beans, cracking the pod and then squeezing the bean with your fingers to shoot it into the bowl. Once you have filled your bowl, take the beans and boil them in salted water for 5 minutes. Shock them in ice water to preserve their bright green color. Then peel off the outer peel of the bean.
1 Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan – large enough to hold all of the vegetables and the ham. Add the ham and the carrots and sauté, stirring from time to time, until the ham begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
2 Add the corn and spring onions and toss to combine. Saute for another 2 minutes.
3 Add the fava beans, which already have been blanched, and cook for one more minute. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, and taste for salt. You might not need any because the ham is salty. Cover the pot and let it sit for 2 minutes, to steam.
Toss in the mint and serve hot or at room temperature.