Aside from Sylvester’s famous expletive, I thought succotash was one of those weird, dated American farm dishes where lots of unappealing vegetables were cooked down, in large batches, into an equally unappealing mush that inspired fond, parochial memories, while no one actually wanted to eat it. I was wrong.
Liz Creelman Patterson and her husband Rob are responsible for my recent education. The succotash served alongside my trout at their fabulous wedding earlier this month, was delicious with firm, fresh vegetables and bright herbs.
Based on a Narragansett Indian dish of corn and shell beans, succotash has spread throughout the US. It seems best known today in the South, where okra and lima beans are cooked in lard. I used the bright green beans that were plentiful at DC’s Eastern Market (and no shelling involved), added red pepper for sweetness and color, thyme for savory depth and a pinch of piment d’espelette, a French pepper that is dried and ground with great complexity and mild heat. Bacon brought pig to the dish instead of lard.
This succotash was the clear winner in our test kitchen that week. Ready in under 20 minutes, there was no sufferin’ in the preparation or the eating.
Corn and Bacon Succotash
- 3 slices thick bacon, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lb green beans, ends removed and cut into 3/4” pieces
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 3 ears of corn, kernals sliced off
- 1 tbs thyme
- Piment d’espelette or cayenne pepper
- Sherry vinegar
- Sauté bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Add onion to skillet with bacon fat and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add green beans and pepper to pan and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add corn, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and cook 10-15 minutes until vegetables are crisp tender.
- Remove lid, add thyme and bacon, and cook an additional 3 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne, butter for richness and vinegar for brightness.