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Every week, Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.
Today: The answer to bland green beans (and the question of side dishes)—all in 8 minutes.
In the interest of smoother weeknight meal-planning (and/or winging) and more carefree entertaining, what the world needs now is not love, but side dishes. Preferably attractive, good-tasting, ready lickety-split, malleable-to-any-main side dishes. World, you're in luck! We have another Genius Recipe for the cause.
This one—8-minute braised green beans from Michel Richard's Happy in the Kitchen—is a surprisingly elegant side without having to do or think much. It lands in the ideal middle ground between vegetables quickly and plainly cooked (like the steamed zucchini rounds and trunks of broccoli I grew up on) and something more ambitious, with its own sauce and garnish agenda (and accompanying prep time).
Those 8 minutes aren't secretly discounting the time it takes to boil a pot of blanching water, either—because you won't be doing that here. Best of all, not boiling water also turns out to be the ticket to not-bland green beans. "Contrary to much modern practice, these thin green beans don't want to be boiled and shocked in ice water any more than you would," Richard writes, with the help of Peter Kaminsky. "They get waterlogged and lifeless."
Instead, you put everything in the pan at once, bring it up to a simmer and cover it, peeking and tossing it all around a couple times. You will want to do this last-minute to keep the beans looking bright—but if you have your green beans stemmed, garlic cloves squashed, and the other two ingredients measured, this is done in the time it takes for your diners to find the table.
This aversion to blanching echoes our other genius green beans from Penelope Casas, but where those come out singed and aggressively seasoned at the last minute with fresh garlic and salt, Richard's recipe is plumped with stock, a softer infusion of garlic, and a generous lapping of butter for the duration. After 8 minutes, the beans are glazed and glistening, as so named by Richard, and taste like extra-savory green beans (and not at all like water).
Yes, you can substitute vegetable stock for the chicken (I've used mushroom broth to great effect) or even straight water in a pinch. And since finding dainty haricots verts isn't a sure thing, you can use this technique with whatever variety and size of green beans you find at the market or dangling in your garden. All will benefit from skipping the water bath and getting direct access to substances that will add flavor, rather than sap it.
Once you get this down, you can even adventure off with other combinations—chunks of ginger and a finish of lime zest; a few shakes of fish sauce, brown sugar, and that rosé you're drinking; or olive oil, fresh herbs, and anchovy.
Serve it on the side of grilled pork chops and a mustardy potato salad; lentils plus a brightening sauce like romesco; or roast chicken (like this quick one for summer)—throw some of the pan juices in with the beans for bonus points. This side will go with pretty much anything, so the only challenge left is deciding what to put in the middle of the plate.
Adapted slightly from Happy in the Kitchen (Artisan, 2006)
Serves 6 as a side dish
1 pound haricots verts, stem ends trimmed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chicken stock
2 garlic cloves, crushed but not peeled
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Food52er Eydie Desser for this one!
Photos by Alpha Smoot