January 4, 2010
Haricots Vert Sautéed in Garlic
by Gareth Mark
Haricots vert sautéed in garlic. Sounds easy, and it is: easy to do well; even easier to do poorly. Some simple alterations will make this dish dairy-free, vegetarian, or vegan.
First you have to decide whether or not to remove the tails. As you can see, I chose not to remove them. If you don't want the tails, snap them off by hand, don't cut them off.
Next, blanch and shock the beans. To do this you'll need a large pot of well-salted water and a bowl or pot partially filled with ice and cold water. Bring the salted water to a rolling boil, then add a handful of beans and cook for about three minutes, until the color brightens. Immediately strain the beans and shock them by immersing them into the ice bath. Repeat until all the beans are cooked.
Why only a handful at a time? Because if you add too many beans to the boiling water you'll lower the temperature, which will ruin the chemical reaction you're after. What you want is to activate the chlorophyll in the beans, then halt the cooking process, locking in the brightened color.
Now you'll sauté the beans. Drain the beans while your pan is heating, then pat them dry with paper towels so that you won't have any oil splatters when they go into the pan, and so you won't steam the beans rather than sautéing them.
I used about two tablespoons of oil from garlic confit and about one tablespoon of butter as the fat for a pound of beans. I added a few whole cloves of the confited garlic and some diced pancetta. Leave the pancetta out for a vegetarian version. Skip the butter and increase the oil to make it vegan or dairy-free. Frankly, the pancetta didn't really add much and I won't use it in the future.
The beans need to be tossed or stirred constantly for even cooking. You'll only need to sauté them for about three minutes until they're heated all the way through. At the very end of cooking, toss on a pinch or two of finishing salt and serve.
Blanching and shocking green vegetables is a step many home cooks skip, but the slight extra work produces a much more beautiful vegetable. Care in handling fresh produce will result in much better flavors, which will in turn lead to more veggie consumption, good both for your budget and your health.