Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Butter-Basted One-Pan Green Beans

They don't look like much, but they are perfection. 
 I feel like there’s kind of a backlash against the crisp-tender vegetables we all learned to love in the 1990s, when we were recovering from the grey-mushy vegetables of our 1970s childhoods. Living on our own, we learned to undercook our vegetables, and it was a revelation: bright broccoli that resisted your fork; green green beans that squeaked under your molars; crisp asparagus that had shared only a whispered moment with steam; planks of eggplant zebra-striped from the grill (ew, my least favorite). Vegetables were colorful and crunchy, and we loved them like that! Until we didn’t. Until, at some Ma and Pa Greek place, we ordered the long-braised green beans in a pool of oily tomato sauce and thought, “Yum.” Overcooked was the new undercooked! We learned to roast broccoli until it went black and soft. We learned to braise it “forever” in a salty bath of olive oil. We learned to make hollandaise sauce for our asparagus, as if we held in our buttery hands the first edition of the Joy of Cooking. Fat was the new fat-free! (Although my philosophy has always been that fat in the service of vegetables is a fine thing.)

And it was good.

I mean, I still don’t want to be served grey peas or stinking boiled cauliflower. I still want my sugar-snaps raw or just barelybrightened in the steamer. And I still only briefly cook green beans if I’m serving them with dip. But this recipe turns out the most perfectly tender, perfectly buttery beans you can imagine. Basically, by the time the water’s gone, they’re cooked through (But you can adapt this to make them how you like.) I make them like this all the time now, using cheater pre-prepped beans from Trader Joe's. And even our Ben, who has some sort of bean-squeaking ISSUE, loves these beans. And I love that they’re pan-to-table—no colander, no serving dish. Because I am the laziest person who ever lived.

Cheater beans. You'll need two bags of these. I promise I'll switch to local and organic when the season changes.

Long live the just-right vegetable! Just don’t be shy with the butter or salt. But you knew I was going to say that.

p.s. Book news! Please come to one of these Catastrophic Happiness readings, if you can! All free and open to the public.
4/7 8:00 p.m. Amherst Books Amherst, MA
4/10 7:00 p.m. Book Court Brooklyn, NY
4/28 8:00 p.m. The Ashfield Lake House Ashfield, MA

Butter-Basted One-Pan Green Beans
Serves 4. It should serve 6, but we always eat them all.

Adapted from this genius Food52 Genius Recipe. They use stock instead of water and (even) more butter. Feel free! Also, they recommend optional parmesan for serving, and how could that be bad?

1 ½ pounds haricot verts or regular green beans, stem ends pinched off if they’re still on
3-4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup water
2 cloves crushed garlic, peeled
¾ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
Lemon juice and zest, to taste (optional)
Snipped dill, chives, or tarragon to taste (optional)

Put everything but the lemon and herbs in a very large, lidded skilled over medium-high heat, and cover it. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it simmers steadily, and use tongs to mix the green beans around occasionally, so that everyone gets a chance to be where the butter is. Eventually, the liquid will evaporate and the beans will be buttery and done—start checking them at around 8 minutes and turn the heat off when they’re cooked to your liking. Add a squeeze of lemon, a scraping of lemon zest, and/or herbs, if you’re using them, and taste the beans for salt and other seasonings. Serve right away, or at room temperat

25 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:50 PM

    I am entirely overwhelmed with JOY!!! I live in Ithaca, NY but used to live in Brooklyn and will be in Brooklyn on 4/10 and will adjust my travel plans to return on Monday and get to see you in person. I will endeavor not to act like a high schooler with a crush. What should I bring you as a present for being my favorite blog writer and editor of my kid's favorite magazine. Seriously. Coffee? Ithaca t-shirt? Finger Lakes wine?

    ReplyDelete
  2. NOT FAIR, local (& NY) book readings when I'm no longer local!! I went with hubby, toddler and 9 month-old baby to your Barnes & Noble reading in Philly (I may have nursed the baby during the reading). Are you going to travel to more places this time? Can we offer to host you and cook for you so you come to our towns? (seriously!?)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous8:12 PM

    I second the hospitality offer if you'd like to trek up to the Burlington/Montpelier, VT zone! But also I am wondering your thoughts on using frozen green beans in this recipe since they're going to go soft anyways...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know much about frozen beans. Will you report back? Would love to come to VT. . .

      Delete
    2. Lots of great indie bookstores -- I can share some suggestions but then I saw the not-a-driver comment below, so maybe not?

      Delete
    3. This time my name showed up with the comment - I am also the VT anonymous above.

      Delete
  4. It's not even THAT much butter, considering the butter-to-beans ratio. I will have to try this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love this idea, as I usually steam my "squeaky beans" (as we call them), then quickly pan fry them in garlic. But I also add slivered almonds at the end. They're my most favorite vegetable when prepared this way.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mmm...looking forward to bean season so I can try this. I recently overcooked (three very expensive) artichokes and secretly loved the mushy, dissolve-in-your-mouth texture of the hearts. Also, I might just have to find a really good excuse to go to Amherst, MA on a Thursday to see your reading (only four hours away!!!).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Seriously, it's no weirder than airbnb - and we already like you. Wanna come to Delaware?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The Kindness of Not-Really Strangers" Tour! I love the idea so much. It's not the sleeping on the couches, it's the driving, which I don't really do. Sigh.

      Delete
    2. oh, I'm sorry you don't do the driving.And I LOVE the tour name "The Kindness of Not-Really Strangers" Tour -- sounds perfect!! :-( And it wouldn't be sleeping in a couch with us, we have a guest bedroom and full bath downstairs. ;-P What about this: I will be coming to visit my previously local area briefly after Memorial day for a wedding. Any chance I could have the book signed? In exchange for coffee or a meal or something?

      Delete
    3. P.S. I just pre-ordered the book right now!

      Delete
  8. If you come to SE New Hampshire, I will buy you dinner at Bob's in Kittery!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sigh. How I wish you'd come to Ohio. Except I can't, in good conscience, recommend anyone come to Ohio.
    Maybe someday we could have some sort of glorious Fan Club meeting somewhere you might actually want to be. Spiritus Pizza in Provincetown, perhaps? Silliness aside, so stoked for the new book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooooh, could I offer Tucson, AZ as a potential Fan Club meeting place? It's lovely and warm this time of year, and everything's in bloom.

      I know it's a (probably prohibitively) long commute, but goodness, it would be fun. In the meantime, I'll be eagerly awaiting my preordered book copy.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous8:53 PM

      "Except I can't, in good conscience, recommend anyone come to Ohio" just gave me a laugh. I lived in Ohio for about 7 years, have had Ohio (Ohioan?) in-laws for 17 years now, and still go there at least once a year but I fully get what you mean! I have fond feelings about it only in that I met my husband there but I never did get used to that place... sigh.

      Delete
  10. When are you coming to Boston?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Flashing back to my mother's continued insistence on serving us nasty, gray, flaccid asparagus from a can.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dearest Catherine, you are not the laziest person in the whole world! I know for sure, because I am the proud holder of that title! Hooray for only one pan to wash!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous5:20 PM

    Just thinking about you today and did not think the review this morning made much sense (aside from the lovely things they said, which were nice). I can't wait 'til my copy arrives. (Beth in WA)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I made these green beans on Friday! They were awesome! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  15. My green beans were squeaky! I was so bummed. I even cooked them longer. The butte sauce was tasty tho.

    ReplyDelete