carla lalli music’s magic brothy butter beans from marlow & sons recipe

these are serious magic beans. may these be your hoppin’ john ::::

On New Year’s Day in the South, there is a tradition to kick out the old year and welcome good luck in the new year with eating Hoppin’ John. There are many variations but it’s traditionally made with black-eyed peas, rice, onion, bacon, with collard greens served alongside. While these brothy butter beans aren’t the same as Hoppin’ John, I’d like to think after this dumpster fire of a crap year, they can lead us into a better 2021 like the Hoppin’ John promises.

When I first saw Carla Lalli Music’s epistolary recipe of these beans gathered from chef Patch Troffer of Marlow & Sons, I knew I had to make them. I made them soon after Carla wrote about the beans in 2018 on the bon appétit website and absolutely agreed with her assessment — magic! So flavorful, great textures, lovely colors, and warm comfort in cold weather. I took a shortcut though, and did a quick soak-and-cook, ending up with flavorful but more beans that didn’t hold their curvy figures. And I changed the aioli to a lemon mayo. I adjusted the herbs a bit. I didn’t have an overripe tomato. I used homemade croutons instead of toasted breadcrumbs. But that’s part of the magic she describes: use what you have and it’s still fabulous.

Then life happened before I could do a proper bean soak and photos for the blog AND I waited TWO YEARS before I tried again. When the COVID-19 pandemic closures happened in March here, I scrabbled for non-perishable items, the dry butter beans ending up in my pantry. But I kept waiting to make this recipe again. Longer. And longer. Then it was too hot outside to eat soupy things. Then I kept forgetting to soak the beans the night before. Then I ran out of the peppery olive oil I planned to use. I also second-guessed my boring grocery-store generic dry butter beans and considered ordering some high-end Rancho Gordo beans to see what the fuss was about. I just wasn’t patient enough to wait for their online store re-stocking and couldn’t completely ignore the pound of dry beans in my pantry.

Whatevs. My pragmatic self finally got to these patient beans again. Enter the koginut squash. To give the brothiness some color and wintery flavors, I chose a koginut squash to roast.

I picked some rosemary from our garden, and bought some good quality mayo to mix with lemon juice and zest. Seriously, do not miss the aioli/mayo in the soup. Just a spoonful gives each bowl a tangy creaminess. So good!

I halved the squash and roasted until fork tender.

I also cut up some stale bread to make some extra-crunchy croutons (see my recipe here).

We also still have some tenacious arugula in our garden this month, which was a nice addition right before serving. Olive oil and vinegar, too. All the tastes! You need them all!

Here’s to putting out the dumpster fire of 2020 and a truly better 2021!

First, YAY COVID VACCINATIONS! I’ve gotten my first and feel great. Ready for my second in a few days….


One year ago: cranberry-orange relish

Two years ago: marbled pound cake

Three years ago: chimichurri

Four years ago: my favorite kale salad

Five years ago: ozoni

Six years ago: raspberry lemonade bars

Seven years ago: whole orange cake and coffee marshmallows

Eight years ago: oatmeal crackers

Nine years ago: status interruptus


NOTE: I’m also categorizing this as a soup because of the brothy aspect, though it’s more bean than soupy.

carla lalli music's magic beans from marlow and sons recipe
Recipe type: soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 12 to 16 ounces butter (lima) beans, dry
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
  • one lemon
  • ½ cup of good quality mayonnaise or aioli
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • a handful of roasted vegetables (squash, carrots, whatever you choose - I used koginut squash)
  • thyme, fresh (a must), and other fresh herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, cilantro, culantro, chives) - for serving
  • Dry spices: ½ teaspoon coriander, ¼ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon chili powder (for heat), dry thyme/oregano
  • a few handfuls of arugula to add just before serving
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs or a handful of homemade croutons to serve with each bowl
  • olive oil for cooking
  • a glug of great quality olive oil for each bowl when serving. A peppery one is nice here.
  • a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar for each bowl served
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Rinse the dry butter beans and place into medium pot. Fill a pot with cool water to cover beans. Allow to sit overnight. Soak about 8 hours, no more than 12. (You can do the "quick cook" method here and cook all on the same day -- The only issue with this is that the beans fall apart some. Not as pretty but still delicious.)
  2. Drain overnight water and refill pot with fresh water.
  3. Bring to boil then simmer, covering the beans with some olive oil (or favorite rendered fat). Throw in some fresh thyme on the stem and garlic confit (or pan cook roughly chopped garlic until softened). Cook beans for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. I kept testing them to make sure I knew when they were perfectly done.
  4. Add salt when almost done cooking. Add coriander and other dry spices. The beans should be firm but soft to the bite. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, PREP THE COMPONENTS:
  6. ROAST LEMON: Cut lemon in half on its equator. Heat a skillet to hot with a little olive oil and place lemons face down. Sear until brown. Remove from heat.
  7. MAKE THE MAYO: Finely zest some of the above roasted lemon into the mayo and stir well. Set aside in fridge.
  8. CHOP FRESH HERBS: Chop whichever herbs you choose to add to the bowls to serve. You'll need about 1 teaspoon of thyme or oregano and a few leaves of basil or cilantro (or similar).
  9. TOMATO LOVE: In a small pan with a little oil, cook the chopped onion until translucent. Add tomato paste and cook about 2 minutes. Set aside. (Carla's recipe connection used an overripe tomato. I used paste for a richer flavor.)
  10. ROAST VEGETABLES: Cut up your vegetables to bite-sized pieces. Roast to soften and brown. For koginut squash, I cut in half, roasted face down in a Pyrex glass pan at 400 deg F for 30-40 min until fork-tender, cooled, and scooped out the roasted goodness. You have free reign on preferences here!
  11. TOAST BREADCRUMBS: Heat up same pan you seared the lemons on, add some olive oil or butter and toast breadcrumbs until crispy. If you want to make croutons, look at my no-knead bread recipe; croutons are the backup plan if all the bread doesn't get eaten before staling.
  12. ASSEMBLY: Squeeze seared lemons into cooked beans and throw the rinds into pot. Add the arugula. Test the broth's salt level and add more if needed. Spoon beans into serving bowls, adding fresh herbs and roasted vegetables. Stir gently then add a small dollop of lemon mayo and vinegar to each bowl. Give each bowl a glug of fine quality olive oil. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs/croutons and chives just before serving. Magic, indeed!


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