Wrapped in unappealing skins that are more yellowish than green, and splashed with speckles in colors ranging from pink to brown, French Cocos aren’t the prettiest of the lot at the neighborhood marche. In fact, if you didn’t know what sort of deliciousness was inside, you’d probably walk right past them, as I did for the first year or two that I was here, I’m embarrassed to admit.
I’ve never tasted a bean like the Coco. Buttery. Melt-in-your-mouthy. Less like legumes and more like bean bon bons, filled with their own creamy, beany ganache. Delicate and elegant, Cocos are the swan of beans emerging from the ugliest of wrappers.
Am I waxing on too much?
Officially known as “Le Coco de Paimpol,” with a protected A.O.C. status like other culinary superstars here, such as Roquefort and lentilles du Puy, these fat little beans have been grown in Brittany since a French soldier brought the seeds back from Latin America in 1928. During World War II, when much of the country was starving, the Coco turned up on many dinner tables, and saved the day — ta da!
Cocos are found in the hearty winter dish, cassoulet, or otherwise topped with some sort of chunk of meat – chicken, lamb, or pork — or eaten like I sometimes do, just on its own.
Like my other much-loved legume, the black-eyed pea, the Coco doesn’t need much help. Just a ham bone, some garlic and onion, a few bay leaves, and , at the end, a bit of fresh rosemary (which was absolutely genius, if I do say so myself). Then, eat however you’d like, as as often as you can.
I just made another big batch yesterday, and I’m having them with cornbread for dinner.
Please don’t tell black-eyed peas.
2 kilos/4 pounds unshelled coco beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 large ham bone
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Shell the cocos and give them a quick rinse.
In a large pot, drizzle the 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Turn the heat on medium-high, and cook until the onions become translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the cocos, enough water to cover by 3 inches, the ham bone and bay leaves. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat and let cook just until beans are cooked through, about 20 minutes — watch them carefully, because they’ll break if they’re overcooked.
When cooked, turn off heat and add rosemary springs. Let cool. Remove rosemary, bay leaves, and ham bone, and if you need salt and pepper, add it now. Like most beany dishes, this is better the next day.