Friday, January 6, 2012

Better Beans

Julia Child’s recommendations on cooking green beans in Mastering the Art of French Cooking are a revelation. I’ve never enjoyed this vegetable as much as I do now. Formerly I sautéed them in olive oil with garlic and red chili flake and then finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a bit of butter. They weren’t bad. But they weren’t great. I also tried roasting them, which was a dismal failure. With Julia’s advice on blanching the beans first then evaporating the liquid in a dry sauté pan, the beans are rendered crisp and flavorful. 
1 pound fresh green beans (choose thin, firm beans that snap when you break off an end)
½ lemon
1 tablespoon butter
sea salt

Heat several quarts of water and a generous pinch of sea salt in a large pot over high heat. Meanwhile snap off the ends of the green beans. When the water reaches a boil, gently slide the beans into the pot. After about three minutes, remove one of them with a pair of tongs and test for doneness. You want it cooked through but with a slight crunch remaining. When the beans reach this stage, drain in a colander. If you do not plan to use them immediately, refresh under cool running water or plunge into an ice water bath.
When you are within minutes of serving, place the drained beans in a dry sauté pan and cook over relatively high heat until the moisture is cooked off--about one to two minutes--shaking the pan to move the vegetables around. Then drop a tablespoon of butter into the pan and continue to flip the beans. Slowly squeeze the juice from half of a lemon onto the beans. Serve immediately... but, of course, enjoy at your leisure.


  1. Pamela, I just tried these - YUM! The lemon juice and butter combined in a way that made the beans taste tangy, without having a real lemony taste. I also liked having the beans rest until I was ready to serve everything else. Thanks for sharing!