Succotash may be a Southern favorite and be named after the word “msickquatash” of the Narragansett in New England, but this dish, most famously made with corn and lima beans, has deep roots in the Midwest. You can taste that story at various restaurants around Chicago where chefs are adding seasonal, Midwest touches to their succotash.
“I grew up with it. I’m from Ohio,” said A.J. Walker, chef de cuisine at Publican Anker in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. “I think it’s the quintessential Midwest side dish. Yeah, you just have it at a lot of family get-togethers and stuff like that.”
“The Midwest is a melting pot of all the different parts of the country,” said Tom Carlin, chef de cuisine at Dove’s Luncheonette around the corner. “And being able to bring our ingredients and our history we’ve gotten from the South and the Northeast together is what makes it specifically a Midwestern dish.”
Certainly, succotash has a long history in Chicago. The family of John Kinzie, one of the first permanent European settlers early in the 19th century, “likely ate venison, succotash and salt pork,” according to Bruce Kraig, the historian who wrote a city food timeline for the Chicago Tribune in 1997.
Three-quarters of a century later, in 1877, cans of succotash were 15 cents each at Hickson’s Cash Grocery House, according to an advertisement in the Chicago Tribune. A May 15, 1886, Tribune column included a recipe for succotash calling for canned corn and canned string beans cooked in equal parts milk and water.
And, in January 1894, the Ohio Society of Chicago honored that state’s governor and future president, William McKinley, with a banquet at the Grand Pacific Hotel that featured succotash on the menu.
Today, you can find string beans in the succotash at Dove’s Luncheonette, but they’re fresh. It’s a reflection of the desire of a number of Chicago chefs to create succotash using seasonal ingredients according to personal taste and the restaurant’s overall theme. Carlin is a Kansas City native whose family put green beans in the succotash. That’s why you find them in his, which is used as a filling for vegetarian enchiladas topped with a sauce of pureed chiles and tomatoes.
“Succotash is more of a theory than it is an actual dish,” explained Jimmy Papadopoulos, chef/partner of Bellemore on the Near West Side. “It’s more an idea of using a variety of ingredients and showcasing what’s beautiful at that time of year.”
He’s currently making a succotash featuring okra, cubed zucchini, zucchini flowers, corn and fava beans. Look for his dish to change with the seasons.
Corn is the inspiration for Nick Dostal, executive chef at Terrace 16 in the Near North neighborhood. He isn’t a fan of lima beans, having ate canned ones as a kid. So, he uses fresh jicama instead in his succotash, which also features sweet peas, espelette pepper, tarragon and a citrus vinaigrette.
“Customers love it,” he said. “Midwesterners look at succotash and see something familiar.”
Dried or canned cranberry beans could be used in place of the fresh beans; prepare beans accordingly. A white wine vinegar can substitute for the muscatel and Champagne vinegars.
Cranberry Bean Succotash
Preparation time: 3 hours
Cooking time: 1 hour
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 fresh bay leaf or 1/3 dried leaf
- 3 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
- 1/2 of a white onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, slivered
- 3 cups fresh cranberry beans
- 4 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons muscatel vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 4 shallots, minced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 5 anchovies, rinsed, chopped
- 1/4 cup each: Champagne vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 of a jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 cups corn kernels
- 2 cups diced celery
- 3 tablespoons each, finely chopped: chives, cilantro, mint
- Lemon juice
For the cranberry beans, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the bay leaf, thyme, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender and translucent, 5 minutes.
Add cranberry beans and water. Bring to a simmer; cook until beans are tender, 30-45 minutes, being careful not to let the pot boil. Remove from heat; drain. Season with salt, pepper and vinegar. Cool and set aside.
For the salsa verde, stir the shallots, capers, anchovies, vinegar, olive oil, honey, jalapeno, lemon juice and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. Makes about 1 1/4 cups. You will have salsa leftover for another use.
For the succotash, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and let heat until it is almost smoking. Add the corn; cook, stirring, until tender. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, mix together the corn, raw celery, chives, cilantro, mint, reserved cranberry beans and 1 cup salsa verde. Season with salt and lemon juice.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 455 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 64 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 20 g protein, 381 mg sodium, 21 g fiber
Recipe from: Publican Anker
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
- 5 dried guajillo chiles
- 5 dried New Mexico chiles
- 1 dried ancho chile
- 1 dried pasilla chile
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- Pinch each: black pepper, cumin, coriander
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) chopped tomato
- Sugar, salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup diced white onion
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 1 cup chopped blanched green beans
- 1 cup diced mixed summer squash
- 1 tablespoon pasilla chile flakes (grind your own from a pasilla chile)
- 1/2 cup diced tomato
- 2 tablespoons each, shredded: queso fresco, queso oaxaca
- Corn tortillas
- Chopped cilantro, chopped green onion, grated cheese, toasted pepitas
For the enchilada sauce, remove stems and seeds from the chiles; toast in a dry skillet over medium heat, until chiles turn shiny and you see a wisp of smoke. Transfer chiles to a bowl. Return skillet to heat; add 1 tablespoon oil and the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, 5 minutes.
Add the chiles, black pepper, cumin and coriander. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, adding water if needed to almost cover the chiles. Cook until chiles are soft, about 15 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid; puree the chile mixture in a food processor, adding the liquid back in as needed to get a sauce consistency. Adjust flavor with sugar and salt as needed. Set aside.
For the succotash, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic and onion until softened, 5 minutes. Add the corn, green beans and summer squash. Season with chile flakes and salt; add the tomato. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat; fold in grated cheeses.
Spoon the mixture into tortillas. Roll the tortillas around the filling; place seam-side down in a baking dish that fits them snuggly. Top tortillas with the enchilada sauce. Bake in a 375-degree oven until the sauce forms a little glaze on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove tortillas from the oven; serve with the cilantro, green onion, pepitas and more grated cheese.
Makes 10 enchiladas.