By all accounts, I shouldn’t like fresh fava beans at all. They’re often hard to find, they’re not particularly pretty to look at until they’ve been shelled, but most of all, they’re just a pain in the butt to prepare. And yet, despite all that, I still love the little buggers.
I find it helps if you accept the reality of fava bean prep, and just approach it as a meditative exercise instead of as a chore. There are no shortcuts, no tricks, no hacks. Just me, my two hands and a big pile of fava pods.
It’s basically a two-stage process. First, you start by peeling back the thick outer pod to reveal the large, flat beans nestled in the velvety interior. Then, once you've freed the beans from their snug little cocoon, you quickly blanch them in boiling water and then pinch off leathery skin that surrounds the tender, emerald-green fava inside.
I find that after the first couple of beans I get into a sort of rhythm, at which point I can let my thoughts wander while I continue to dismantle the rest of the pile... it's a good opportunity to ponder the meaning of life, or just to daydream for a while about Channing Tatum's abs. (What? Admit it. You do it too.)
If you've never tried fresh fava beans, then you're in for a treat. Unlike their dried counterparts, fresh beans have a slightly bitter, deeply green flavour that can be a little intense on its own, but that works beautifully with other assertive flavours, like the smoked paprika and salty pancetta in this hearty hash.
It’s the kind of dish that practically begs for a single sunny-side-up fried egg (because everything's better when it's topped with an egg), which basically makes it a meal in and of itself. Think of it as your reward for all the hard work you put in thinking about Channing Tatum shelling fava beans.
Quick Tip: If you're worried you might be pressed for time, just prep the potatoes and beans a day or two in advance. Just complete the first two steps of the recipe, then transfer the favas and potatoes to separate containers and store in the fridge until it's time to cook. (Or you can use leftover boiled potatoes, if you happen to have some kicking around.)
Smoky Bacon and Fava Bean Hash
2 cups diced new potatoes
1 cup shelled fava beans
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 cup diced pancetta or bacon
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 large eggs
Chopped parsley, for garnish
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes for 5-7 minutes, or until just barely fork-tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a bowl and set aside, leaving the water in the pot.
Add the fava beans to the pot, and blanch for about 5 minutes, or until bright green and tender. Drain, then plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Once the favas are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off and discard the tough, leathery skins around the beans.
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet set over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the pancetta and fry for 3-5 minutes, or until crisp and browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta, leaving the fat in the pan.
Reduce heat to medium-low, and add the cooked potatoes to the skillet, along with the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes, or until the shallots are soft and potatoes are crispy and golden. Add the reserved pancetta and fava beans, then sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes to warm everything through, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cover and set aside to keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed skillet, fry the eggs in the remaining tbsp of olive oil. You can make them sunny-side up if you like runny yolks, or over-easy (or even over-medium) if you prefer your eggs more done. It's up to you.
To serve, divide the hash evenly between four plates, then top each one off with a fried egg and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.