« Haricots beurre » means "butter beans," but butter beans are different beans from country to country and region to region. We saw these advertised in a supermarket flyer, and Walt picked up a bag when he went shopping. I cooked some the other day and we both thought they were delicious.
A lot of the dried beans we cook and eat here in Saint-Aignan come from Portugal. Often they are labeled in Portuguese as well as French, and sometimes the label says the beans are Origine USA. These haricots beurre, however, are marked as Origine U.E. — in other words, they must have been grown somewhere in the European Union. Nowadays, we find not just kidney beans (haricots rouges) and white beans (haricots blancs) but also black-eyed peas (cornilles), giant lima beans (pois du Cap), and even black beans (haricots noirs) more and more widely available. Ten years ago, the choice was more limited.
These particular haricots beurre resemble pinto beans more than the U.S. butter beans that I remember from way back when. They have very tender skins and a nice buttery texture when they're cooked. I didn't have to simmer them long at all, but I did soak them in cold water for a few hours before putting them on the stove. I went ahead and salted them at that point, bucking the conventional wisdom. I also put in some black pepper, a whole onion, a whole garlic clove, two bay leaves, and one dried hot chilli pepper.
This post might be of more interest to people who live here in France, or at least in Europe, than to those who live in the U.S. If you like to cook and eat dried beans (légumes secs in French), look for haricots beurre at the supermarket. If your local supermarkets have a section for imported products, including Portuguese foods, you might find them there. Our Saint-Aignan area grocery stores have Semaine du Portugal events a few times a year, and maybe yours do too.