“Mongetes,” pronounced like moon-jet-ahs, means "beans" in Catalan. “Bolet” is the Catalan word for mushroom. This dish really is not much more than beans and mushrooms. It’s another classic Catalan dish for late autumn or early winter, when the wild mushroom season is in full swing. It makes for a hearty, vegetarian main dish, served with good crusty bread. Catalonians typically use white beans similar to what are called cannellini beans in the USA. You can use any type of beans you like, though. Larger lima beans or favas are great, and you will occasionally see versions using garbanzos.
The recipe is extremely easy, but if you have good mushrooms and cook them well, you will end up with a big-flavored, really satisfying dish. The sauce is really as simple as onion blended up with some of the bean cooking liquid and some toasted pinenuts. The rest of the flavor comes from the mushrooms cooked with garlic and parsley.
“Bolet” is the Catalan word for “mushroom,” and you can use just about any mushrooms you like to make this dish. In Catalonia, this dish traditionally celebrates wild mushrooms, though it works just as well with cultivated mushrooms. I have seen this done with just about any mushrooms you can imagine, from porcini to black trumpets, yellow foots to white buttons, chanterelles to shitake, oysters to the highly prized saffron milk caps (rovelló), and lots of other wild mushrooms too obscure for my non-mushroom-geek friends. This is definitely a dish to show off the variety of a bountiful harvest, but if you get mushrooms from the store, try to get a variety of a few different mushrooms. The different flavors and textures will give you a more interesting finished dish. I like to toss in a small handful of dried mushrooms just to add even more earthy depth.
Sometimes you will see this dish done using only dried mushrooms. In that case, for step 4, start by sautéing the garlic and parsley, then add the soaked and softened dried mushrooms with the sauce base. Use the bean cooking liquid to soak the dried mushrooms, and use that very flavorful liquid for the sauce base.
1 lb dried cannellini beans
2 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and left whole
2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
½ ounce dried wild mushrooms (porcini, yellow foots, lobsters, etc.)
2 lbs mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut in large pieces (quartered or halved), or left whole for smaller mushrooms.
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2-3 Tbsp chopped parsley
Oil for cooking
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Prepare the beans: Cover the cannellini beans with a generous amount of cold water. Leave covered at room temperature overnight. Drain the beans, give a quick rinse, then again cover them with cold water. Add the bay leaves, onion, and 2 garlic cloves. Bring up to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Skim off the scummy foam as it simmers and discard. When the beans are done, remove from the heat, and season the liquid with salt.
2. Soak the Dried mushrooms: Cover the dried mushrooms with about 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid.
3. Prepare the sauce base: Combine the boiled onion from the beans with the pine nuts and about 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid, and use a blender or hand blender to purée until smooth.
4. Sauté the mushrooms: Get a large, heavy-bottomed pot hot on a medium-high flame. Add enough mushrooms to cover the bottom of the pan and a small pinch of salt. The mushrooms will release a lot of water. Let it reduce down, and when the pan is almost dry, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and lower the heat to medium. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned. Remove from pan, set aside, and repeat in batches, until all of the mushrooms are cooked.
Note: This method is called a “dry sauté,” and is typical for wild mushrooms. Wild mushrooms usually have a much higher water content than cultivated mushrooms, and so you want to drive off the excess moisture before adding the fat to sauté and brown them. If you are cooking cultivated mushrooms (like portabella or shitake, etc.) just heat the pan, add your oil, and sauté as you normally would.
5. When the last batch of mushrooms is browned, add all of the mushrooms back to the pan, along with the reconstituted dried mushrooms, chopped garlic, parsley, and a little bit more olive oil. Sauté for a couple minutes, stirring regularly to cook the garlic and parsley, then stir in the sauce base from step 2. Strain the liquid from the reconstituted mushrooms and add that to the pan as well. Bring the sauce up to a simmer, then stir in the cooked beans, without their liquid. Bring the contents of the pan back up to a simmer, and cook for about 2 more minutes, adding a little of the bean cooking liquid if the pan starts to dry out. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Remove from heat, stir in a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, and serve immediately.
6. Serve in bowls, allowing each diner to garnish with extra virgin olive oil and chopped parsley. If there are leftovers, stir in a bit of the remaining bean liquid. The beans will continue to absorb liquid as they sit, so this will keep them from drying out too much overnight.