Green Beans and Onions
Green beans can be fresh or frozen, or even canned. If they are from a can, they are already cooked, and just need warming. Frozen beans are ready to cook, but fresh beans will need the ends trimmed off. The new varieties don’t require removing the string any more, so they aren’t nearly as much work as they used to be.
Of course you can cook string beans by themselves, but sometimes adding other things makes them seem more special. For example, this recipe shows pearl onions added, as well as bacon bits.
Fresh pearl onions are very good, but a lot of work. You need to blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water to make them easier to peel. My favorite option is to use frozen onions, but they only seem to be available now in the markets from October to the end of the year. So I buy lots of bags to store in the freezer for the rest of the year. They are good in stews as well as by themselves in a cream sauce.
Normally, you will not want to overcook the beans, leaving them tender but still crisp. How crisp is up to you. Some restaurants leave them almost raw, which personally I don’t like very much. There is an exception, and that’s Grandma’s Green Beans, which follows old Southern traditions of cooking them for a long time resulting in a delicious “pot liquor”.
Place the beans (and onions, if using) in a covered sauce pan with about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil so that the beans steam for about 10 minutes. Test the beans and stop cooking when they feel the way you want when you bite them. Drain the water completely, and add about 1/2 teaspoon of butter for each serving of beans you are making. Toss the butter, add salt and pepper, and bacon bits, if using. You can also experiment with other garnishes, such as paprika, chives, or parsley.