Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Green beans are really only appealing when they are cooked in one of 2 ways: either barely blanched enough to make them go bright green and then shocked in cold water to stop the cooking, or really, REALLY cooked. This is one option for the latter. Interesting cultural side note: hillbillies in Floyd County, Virginia, and hillbillies in Shandong Province, China, cook their green beans in exactly the same way. Here's how they do it-
Get a mess of green beans, an onion, and a good sized bit of bacon. Cut up the bacon and onions, put them in a pot with the beans and enough water to about half-cover the lot. Bring the pot to a boil. Cover it, reduce it to a simmer and add a few pinches of salt. If you want, you can put in a little bit of pepper. Stir it every once in a while, but mostly just leave the pot to simmer until the beans have nearly dried out, and you can almost hear them sizzling on the bottom of the pot. Take them off the heat, leave them to cool for a minute then stir them once to get the flavors well mixed and to take up any brown bits from the pan.
Practical notes: Use really good bacon. I used 2 slices of TJ's to about a pound of beans. Also, taste for salt after about half an hour, they take a good bit. It encourages Maillard reactions. They should take around an hour to cook.
Beans cooked this long develop nutty, roasty flavors that go really well with the smoky and meaty flavor of the bacon, but they retain their characteristic 'beany' taste as well. Also, long cooking makes them very tender, which is enhanced by the bacon fat. They are quite buttery, a satisfying thing to eat in the winter.
If you live in Floyd, you can eat them with biscuits, or rolls, cornbread, mashed potatoes, homemade pickles, and pork chops or chicken if you are at all reasonably prosperous. If you live in Shandong, you can eat them with rolls, possibly boiled potatoes, homemade pickles, and pork chops if you can afford it. But if you haven't got any of those things on hand, don't let that stop you from eating green beans. Really, there isn't anything they don't go with. I get creeped out by cooking raw meat in my own apartment, (the packaging is nasty) so I ate mine with a cup of tea and some gingerbread.