by Wynter Holden
I do love a good fennel sausage. They had a mean spiced sausage with sweet, licorice-y fennel at my local organic market back in Portland, where I spent the past year and change. I sautéed it with apples and pasta in a light olive oil and garlic sauce. Yum. So when I glimpsed this on the menu at North Scottsdale's swank Sassi, I was intrigued:
House made fennel sausage with "blind husband" style beans.
Blind husband beans? At that point, I forgot all about my fennel sausage. I cocked an eyebrow at my hubby and wondered what kind of interesting side dish Sassi had cooked up. I imagined there was an interesting story there. Unfortunately, my trusty Internet guides Ms. Yahoo and Mr. Google came up completely empty on this one. What to do? I picked up the phone and gave Sassi's home office a ring.
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GM Stephen Plunkett had the answer I was looking for. Or at least, part of it. Chef Wade Moises was inspired by an old Italian recipe for a multi-bean dish nicknamed "blind husband soup". Sassi's version is more like a stew, and contains several varieties of beans (including French navy, garbanzo, cranberry and scarlet). The bean base is mixed with garlic oil, broccoli rabe, and spicy bread croutons to form a mushy, thick stew.
Seems like an odd combination of flavors, but according to Plunkett, this dish is a winner -- so much so that guests often ask for it as a side dish even if they don't want the fennel sausage. I never actually got the explanation behind the name, but my own clever husband proposed that perhaps a blind husband searching in the dark for stew ingredients might hand over fistfuls of mismatched beans. And the wife, feeling sorry for her poor feeble mate, doesn't say anything and puts the odd ingredients into her soup.
Yeah, I'll just let him think that.