January 4, 2010

Haricots Vert Sautéed in Garlic

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.


  1. Oh, this too sounds wonderfully tasty! I'm making some of that garlic confit this weekend!

    I don't know if it is 'proper' cooking or not but during summer, I like to add a bit of finely chopped rosemary and a little honey to the beans end of the saute process. I love the taste of the fresh herbs and garlic with a little sweetness. Cheers!

  2. The blanch and shock method is the best for haricots and many other green veges. I use it no mater how I plan on using them. I think it's one reason my children grew up loving green veges. I like a little freshly grated nutmeg on my haricots when I don't use garlic. Sounds odd but it's delicious.

  3. Any time you use fresh ingredients, like rosemary, it's what I consider "proper" cooking. :)

  4. Nutmeg? Sounds intriguing. Now I'm going to have to give that a try.

  5. Mmmmm...one of my favorite vegetables in the world, yet you're right, it seems they are all to easy to make poorly. I've eaten way too many a mouthful of bad beans.

  6. Ooh, you're making me hungry. I'm on my way to the store right now. And thanks for the tip about not cooking too many beans when blanching - that's something I forget about every time!

  7. Looks yum, but what if you only have a bunch of frozen yellow beans chopped in one-two inch segments in the freezer? I am at a loss at what to do with so many and wondered why I planted so many.

  8. I'd consider making some soup and tossing the beans into that at the last minute. Yellow beans of that size would be just right in a soup.