It was 90 degrees the other day in Los Angeles, but I desperately wanted it to feel like fall! Specifically, the New York fall setting of “Only Murders in the Building.” I’ve been watching it lately, and I’m thoroughly charmed by Martin Short’s character — the catastrophically confident theater director in a long blue coat who survives almost entirely on dips.
I devised my own fall vibes. I put on a big pot of mantequilla beans to simmer and rummaged through the crisper to make a big clean-out-fridge gratin, packed with baby fennel, shiitake mushrooms, kohlrabi and those tender beans. It was a riff on the chef Naomi Pomeroy’s fennel gratin with cheesy béchamel sauce and bread crumbs toasted in butter with garlic, then tossed with chopped fennel fronds.
You might think of a gratin as one particular French dish — thinly sliced potatoes roasted in cream — but neither the cream nor the potatoes are required. Almost anything can be gratinée, if you tuck it under the broiler for a few minutes and let it get bubbly and brown. Beet greens and kale? Check. Chard and sweet corn? Definitely. Turnips? Parsnips? Cabbage? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!
But back to that pot of beans. Add a bunch of washed, chopped rainbow chard and a smidge of doenjang bloomed in hot oil, and you’ve got Eric Kim’s new recipe for one-pot beans and greens. Or, mix the beans with sweet and savory glazed plantains and chopped scallions, and you’ve got Yewande Komolafe’s dreamy breakfast dish (which works for lunch and dinner, too).
If you’re stuck on the idea of a crispy-edged gratin, as I often am, you can go with Ali Slagle’s cheesy white bean-tomato bake, and add a bunch of greens like kale, or spinach, to make it even heartier. You can absolutely use cooked dried beans, though if you prefer to reach for a can, then the dish, and all the cozy fall vibes that are guaranteed to come with it, will be ready in just 15 minutes.
One More Thing!
If you don’t already have some doenjang in the fridge, which you’ll need for Eric’s beans and greens, then consider this a nudge to go and buy some. The Korean soybean paste is an extraordinary, nuanced, super funky vegan ingredient that builds big flavors in stews and soups, and keeps in the fridge for ages, too. Once you start cooking with it, you won’t look back.
You could even try making your own, especially if you’re interested in artisanal versions. Maangchi shares her method here, which requires keeping crushed soybeans warm and cozy, then fermenting the blocks for almost a year. It really makes you appreciate the time and skill that goes into producing this ingredient.