I’ve earlier promised a lima beans recipe, mainly because the succotash-style preparation I tasted a while ago didn’t really convince me. To me, lima beans bear little discussion about what to do with them. What you need is:
Lima beans, shelled. They don’t need to be super young, but must not have turned too light grey-green with leathery skins – why? Because even if you peel the skins off (I don’t), overly mature limas tend to be mealy and taxing for the digestion. Avoid food that’s unpleasant to eat, is the idea.
Shallots, finely diced (to taste, but at least two medium-sized ones, no matter what).
Savory spice, dried or better: fresh, a few sprigs. This is a must, there’s no way around it. The Germans call it Bohnenkraut, bean-herb, and guess why. I had a plant of winter-savory in the garden until the Swedish April and its dryness made an end to it. It’s usually an easy-to-grow plant, in fact.
A few tablespoons of finely diced pancetta-style bacon or sidemeat (no matter whether it’s just dry-cured or smoked. In northern Germany, one would use “gestreifter Speck” which is smoked and rather non-watery bacon-in-a-piece, but I have cooked limas with various types of Italian pancetta and even once with a leftover bit of Prosciutto – all fine. Schwarzwälder ham, on the other hand, is too tough and salty and smoky, and has not enough fat. You do want some fat here).
Olive oil or butter or a mix.
A dash of dry white wine.
Diced garlic if you like; salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
So, whether to peel the already shelled beans or not is a bit of a judgment call. I actually like their somewhat leathery skins, but in older beans, they get too tough – then again, I repeat, older beans are mealy and not good to eat anyway, and this is possibly behind the tendency of people to hate lima beans. If you do decide to peel them, you need quite a bit more beans; you will end up with a more sophisticated version of this dish.
First, heat butter and oil in a skillet large enough to hold the available amount of beans with some ease. Carefully saute the shallot dice on semi-low, allowing them to get translucent and a bit yellow. Add diced bacon, saute on until the bacon fat gets translucent as well. If your stovetop allows you to regulate the heat really carefully, add the savory sprigs now as well (otherwise together with the beans).
Add the beans, salt and pepper, the optional chopped garlic, and stir. Cover, and simmer for a few minutes. Check for liquid; if the dish is too dry, add a few tablespoons of water, simmer on, covered.
After, say, 20 minutes if the beans are young (more if they aren’t – they need to be just past al dente, that is, not crunchy and not mushy), uncover, raise the heat to medium and add the wine. Cook until the sauce has reduced down to a few tablespoons of yum.
An addition of a dash of cream is possible; to sprinkle the dish with grated parmesan is better; the addition of two tablespoons of cubed ripe tomatoes when the bacon has been in the pan for a minute or so could be advantageous.
My mom, if I recall right (must ask), binds the sauce with roux. I don’t.