Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hearts of Palm with Purée of Marrow Beans and Field Greens

One of the greatest things about The French Laundry Cookbook is the wealth of stories throughout the book. One of my favorite stories is about John Mood, the purveyor from whom The French Laundry gets their fresh hearts of palm. Mood served in Vietnam, after which he became a commercial pilot following his military service. He then bought some acreage in Hawaii and, with a business partner and fellow grower, turned his peach palm-growing hobby into a full-time business. It's the stuff dreams are made of, and I hope someday to be able to visit his farm because not only would it be a fantastic excuse to go to Hawaii, but because his farm looks so lush and green and fragrant and peaceful.

I'm sad to say that I was unable to procure fresh hearts of palm to make this dish. I tried ordering it from a number of sources as well as through a few chefs locally here in DC, but nothing panned out. I couldn't bring myself to order 100 lbs. of it (one option, and a rather expensive one at that), or wait until October when a different purveyor would have some ready and was willing to send me just 25 pounds (again, still really expensive and not too timely). So, I had to settle for canned hearts of palm and make the best of it. The good news is, even with the canned stuff, this dish is off-the-charts good, so I can't even imagine what it'll be like when I do get my butt to Hawaii someday, take over someone's kitchen, and make this there.

As you know, the dishes in The French Laundry Cookbook are served in tasting sizes. I usually have 6 - 8 people over to try what I make as part of this project, but when I made this dish, my usual crew was on vacation, out of town on business, or tied up with their kids' sports schedules. So, I thought it was a great opportunity to turn this into an entree-sized serving and invite my friend, Kerry, to lunch. Even though we live just five blocks away from one another, we hadn't gotten together in awhile, and our timing was perfect, so we enjoyed this dish for lunch (along with a few glasses of wine) and had a lovely afternoon. If you have the opportunity to schedule a lunch for two sometime soon, you might want to try this dish. You won't be disappointed.

I soaked the marrow beans overnight the night before I made the rest of the dish. That morning, I drained and rinsed them, then put them in a pot with some cold water and brought them to a simmer:

After they'd simmered for a minute or so, I removed them from the heat, drained them and rinsed them under cold water until the water ran clear. I put the beans in a medium saucepan and covered them with cold, homemade vegetable stock along with some carrot, leek, onion, and tomato as well as a bouquet garni.

I brought this to a simmer and cooked it gently for about an hour. After they'd cooled a bit, I drained the beans (saving the liquid, but discarding the veg), and set aside 3/4 C of them for the sauce.

The remaining beans (another 3/4C or so) went back into the liquid and reheated a tad while I ground some homemade brioche into fine, fine breadcrumbs.

I removed the breadcrumbs from the food processor and in their place put the hot marrow beans (I drained them and the liquid went bye-bye), which I puréed, then added the breadcrumbs back in to purée some more:

Then, I added some mascarpone cheese and kept the purée action going:

This is a point at which I debated calling Kerry and canceling lunch because I really could've just eaten this stuff with a spoon. It smelled amazing, and was so silky smooth. But alas, it was not meant to be, because there were (canned) hearts of palm to be filled with this gorgeous stuff.

Hey, at least they're cultivated and not, um, whatever the opposite of cultivated is.

I cut these hearts of palm into pieces that were 1-2" long, then hollowed them out:

Then, because I accidentally sliced my pastry bag with a knife a few weeks ago and haven't picked up a new one yet, I had to put the marrow bean filling in a ziploc bag (shame, shame, shame) cut a hole in the tip and pipe that stuff into these hollowed-out hearts of palm:
(notice how I kept that photo underexposed because it's so embarrassing?)

I put the filled hearts of palm in the fridge to chill while I prepared the bean sauce in which these hearts of palm would eventually sit.

When I bought my black truffles in the winter, I made mushroom stock and preserved one of the small truffles because I knew I'd be making this dish when black truffles were no longer available. Just as The French Laundry Cookbook instructs on page 87, I made the stock, plonked in the truffle, then stored it in the freezer. I thawed it for this dish, and kept every finger and extremity crossed that it would still be good (read: not poisonous or gastric distress-inducing) when I needed it.

It passed the smell test, for sure, and since I've already 'fessed up to loving this dish, I can tell you it passed the taste and non-sickness-inducing test as well. Whew.

To make the sauce, I put the stock in a saucepan with some sherry vinegar and brought it to a boil and reduced it by half. Then, I added minced shallots, minced black truffle, the remaining beans, and some diced heart of palm (I used the centers I'd hollowed out) and heated it until the contents of the pan were nice and warm:

I removed it from the heat and stirred in the tomato diamonds, parsley, brunoise, chives, and a tiny bit of white truffle oil and set it aside until it was time to plate:

Time to finish the hearts of palm! I dunked and dredged each of them in flour, milk and ground up panko and fried them in some canola oil in a skillet. This was a quick process, so I don't have any action shots of it (if I had done so, they'd have burned, and that would be not a very good thing).

To plate, I put a ring of chive oil on the plate (which is barely visible in the photo, if at all), on which I put the beans in sauce. I topped it with some of the hearts of palm, and garnished with the very last pea shoots I had (my chervil looked sad and droopy, so it got das boot):

I don't think I mentioned this yet, and I should be shot for not doing so, but did you know that marrow beans on their own taste a little like bacon? They do. I'm not making it up. Extra bonus points for that because it definitely added a little sumpin'-sumpin' to the dish.

The hearts of palm smelled a little farty when they were cooking so I was suspicious about how they'd taste (wouldn't you be?), but when I sliced a little bit of the heart of palm and ate it with the bean sauce? Wow wow wow wow wow! I had set aside the extra hearts of palm on a plate in the kitchen, but brought them out to the table so we could finish them right then and there. I set aside a little bit of the bean sauce and reheated it the next morning and ate it with an egg (over-easy). This dish is going into the permanent repertoire. It was a hit in every possible way, and I think this would be a great one to make if you want to try something out of the book, but haven't yet. The book even suggests a workaround in case you don't have truffle-infused mushroom stock, so there are NO EXCUSES for you not calling a friend, inviting him or her to lunch at which you will serve this and drink wine in the middle of the day and feel like a freakin' rockstar (without the heroin bender or passel of hookers, of course, unless that's your thing, in which case, get away from me).

A+ and smiley faces all around. This one's a keeper.

Up Next:
Pacific Moi with Fresh Soybeans, Scallion and Radish Salad, and Soy-Temple Orange Glaze (and no, even though Moi also comes from Hawaii and is next to impossible to find on the east coast, I did not use canned Moi -- I got the fresh stuff because my fishmonger is like the Colombian drug lord of the fish kingdom and found some for me, but without all the murdering and stuff.)

Roland Hearts of Palm
Dried marrow beans from the TPSS Co-op
Homemade vegetable stock from my freezer
King Arthur flour
Organic Valley whole milk
Edward & Sons panko
365 canola oil
Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. mascarpone
Produce from Whole Foods
Parsley from my garden
Saveurs white truffle oil
Black truffle from D'Artagnan

Music to Cook By:
A little bit of Teitur and some Katy Perry. I downloaded a bunch of their music not too long ago and just dumped all of it into one big playlist. And somehow, it works to have them lumped together -- I'm not sure why. I first fell in love with Katy Perry when I heard one of her songs on the soundtrack of "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (shut UP!), and I found out about Teitur the last time I was in LA and listened to KCRW on my little hotel room clock radio because I got sick of watching Project Runway reruns.

Read My Previous Post: French Laundry at Home Extra: Q&A with Carol, Part One


ann said...

A salad of canned hearts of palm and chickpeas dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and sel de mer is my all time favorite easy weeknight dinner. This sounds like a much fancier, more elegant play on that, so I'm sold! This might be the recipe that sends me to the bookstore for the book! thanks Carol :-)

helena in sweden said...

Perhaps the opposite of 'cultivated' is 'not cultivated', like 'grew itself in the wilderness of Hawaii', or something in that path. I wish I could volunteer to take photos while you cook because you are so gutsy in the kitchen (especially with the pig head & all) & maybe some free food samplings thrown my way! But since I live a whole ocean away, I can only drool on your posts until I get my own French Laundry & pep some guts into my system. So we'd see! Oh, thanks for the laughs too! :)

Robert S. said...

Hey there! Welcome back to the kitchen! I suppose marrow beans may make it to the "B" Pantheon (Bacon, Bloomfeld, Bordelaise). Another stellar job! I've only seen the hearts of palm in cans as well, though I vaguely remember seeing, but not tasting, some of the fresh stuff during an "exotic foods" show and tell during my culinary school experience. Keep up the fantastic work.

noble pig said...

Oh yummy! Thanks for posting this.

Michele said...

Wow! This plated so beautifully.

Do you think stuffing the hearts of palm and serving them upright is a play on marrow beans/marrow bones?

Denise said...

"the Colombian drug lord of the fish kingdom"

ROTFLMAO. Gives new meaning to "sleeping with the fishes."

Anonymous said...

Aloha Carol!
Come, come, come to Hawaii! I'll put you up and my friend is a hearts of palm grower on the other side of this island. She also grows spices. There is a thriving food economy here, lots of great farm fresh produce. You'd have a blast. Thank you, also, for inspiring me to drag out the cookbook and start making stuff. My husband wants to know when it's a French Laundry dinner. Wouldn't have done it without your blog to get me up and cooking again.
By the way, we're bakers with a portable wood fired bread oven. I'd love to bake bread for you!

pdxblogmommy said...

Um...Kay...can I come along with Carol when she comes???

Zhopsik said...

Now I know that God (oh,excuse me, I mean Thomas Keller) has his reasons for the order in which he assembles, but wouldn't it work better for the home cook to put the beans on the plate first, then squeeze the chive oil around it? That would keep all that lovely green oil from disappearing under everything else, thinkest not?

Holly said...

Kay is right we have fresh Hearts of Palm in Hawaii. You can order it from
After you are done with the French Laundry you should try Michel Richard's Happy in the Kitchen

lisa said...

I do enjoy bean purees of all kinds. This looks great. Can you suggest another bean if marrow beans can't be found?

rt said...

Impressive. How did you core the hearts of palm? Knife, spoon, large bit drill?

velvetpdx said...

Wow, canned hearts of palm, ziploc baggies, and farty-smelling food--that's my kind of cookin'! And I can totally see you rocking out to "I Kissed a Girl"

Robert S. said...

Hi - since you have once again indeed proven you are 12 (otter pops!), could you come over and convince my 22 month old son that A) pedialyte freezer pops are just like otter pops and B) the mini popsicles (cherry, orange, lime, watermelon) are the greatest invention ever for toddlers in need of something cool and sweet in the summer - though, flirty as he is, he may think you are cool and sweet...

Elizabeth said...

This looks and sounds so incredibly good that I plan to make it this coming week (you continue to be an inspiration!). One question though -- because the hearts of palm were canned (like I'll be using), am I correct in thinking that they don't need to be simmered before filling them like the recipe states?

Carol Blymire said...

Michele -- yep, I think that's exactly the play.

Kay -- Mahalo right back atcha.

Lisa -- I'd think almost any hearty, large white bean would do... Great Northern would be good, too.

RT -- erm, um, they were really easy to just push out with my finger. No tools necessary.

Carol Blymire said...

Elizabeth -- correct. I just rinsed them.

jrose said...

I was wondering what you wrapped your bouquet garni in.

Carol Blymire said...

jrose: the dark green part of the leek. I took three leaves, encased the aromatics within, then tied them into a bundle.

amber said...

i have a feeling there are several friends that would be banging down my door for beans that taste like bacon. seriously. ;)

darly gross said...

Phelps wines are superb- great choice for your lunch. Sadly, we don't get a good selection in totalitarian wine state PA, but I love his Mistral Rhone-style red. Can I plug boxed wine here? I love Black Box Cab Sauv and Pinot Grigio. Not that I'd bring them to a fancy BYOB restaurant, but I have happily served them (blindly first) to friends, including a 3-time Chef of the Year, who complimented them. Outstanding value. (Skip the merlot and syrah...)

Anonymous said...

As a frequent semi-vegetarian, used to dealing with the classic semi-veg issues, let me just say that "farty" in connection with a dish will get it immediatley banned in this household. 'Cause let's just say that we might be able to land a doohickey on Mars, but we still cannot trounce beans. And I'm mad as hell and can't take that problem (from anyone, and that includes the house cat) any more. Bacon, though, remains on the books.

Anonymous said...

why is it a shame to use a ziploc bag instead of a pastry bag? there are lots and lots of people who do that, y'know and they don't think its something to fret about. are you now too good of a cook to use ziploc bags?

Carol Blymire said...

Anon re: the pastry bag -- Me, too good a cook? Nothing could be further from the truth, my friend. I mean, have ya read the blog? ;) I was being semi-ironic, and also a little sad, because I think using ziplocs like that is a wee bit wasteful, especially when it was my own dumbassery that prevented me from using my pastry bag.

Anonymous said...

Carol - thanks for the reply. I do read your blog religiously which was why I was surprised to see the ziploc comment. Thanks for clearing it up about the waste of the ziploc - didnt look at it that way.
Thanks for restoring my faith in your blog! :D

Delite said...

Bravo Carol! I import Fresh Hearts of Palm from my family farm in Costa Rica to the US, and a reader of your blog recently purchase some of my palm to prepare this recipe. I would love for you to try it with fresh hearts of palm in order to truly get the full blown Keller experience.

We Are Never Full said...

beautiful. i can't believe this is the first time i've been to your blog! i've read about it many times, but here i finally am. maybe i'm just bitter b/c i stayed up till 3am 60 days to the day i wanted make reservations at French Laundry and didn't get them. i was tired, bitter and sad. ahhh well, i can pretend i've been there by checking out your website.

Marina said...

I am trying to make a vegan version for a party and am trying to cut down on the steps. What do you think of Trader Joe's Tuscan Bean Dip (instead of the marrow prep) pureed with a Tofutti cream cheese (instead of mascarpone)?

sushi10 said...

Ow my God!!! It looks so tastyyyyy!!!!!
I love Palm hearts... I grew up in a village where there were a Palm Heart Factory...