Fresh from the garden, frozen or canned, green beans take on the savory mantle of comfort food when they're paired with bacon. The slender green veggies and succulent cured meat can be slow-cooked for a juicy soul food side dish or sauteed to al dente perfection. They can be jazzed up with seasonings and shaped into a fancy presentation. Although green beans and bacon are often served as a side dish, the combination can easily be the main attraction for a light luncheon or dinner.
Slow-Cooked Southern Style
The rich, smoky flavor of bacon melds with the milder flavor of green beans when the two are slow-cooked over low heat for 2 to 3 hours in a large cast-iron skillet. Three or 4 slices of bacon cut into bite-size pieces and sizzled in the hot pan yield the fat to lightly brown a small diced onion. Whole green beans with the ends snapped off go in the pot next with enough chicken stock to cover the bottom half of the beans. A liberal splash of cider vinegar in the cooking broth creates an acidic environment that helps maintain the beans' shape and color when the heat is turned down for a long, slow simmer. Slow-cooked beans and bacon are a traditional accompaniment for roast pork, chicken and other soul food classics.
Pretty Green Bean Bundles
A bundle of fresh haricots verts, or very thin green beans, wrapped around the middle with a strip of streaky bacon, dresses up an ordinary dinner plate with fancy-restaurant flair. The elegant little sides are made by cooking the beans for 3 to 4 minutes in salted boiling water, cooling them in ice water and drying them off. Gather 5 or 6 beans in a tidy cluster, wrap them with half a slice of thin-sliced bacon and refrigerate until a few minutes before serving. Gently saute the bean bundles in a pan with a thin coating of olive oil, turning occasionally until the bacon is cooked through. Or you may bake the bundles in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For an extra kick of flavor, sprinkle brown sugar and red pepper flakes on top of the bean bundles before baking.
Cool, Summery Salads
Thawed frozen whole green beans or fresh beans that have been blanched in boiling water are the foundation for salads that add glamour to barbecues and light summer meals.
Make a confetti salad of green beans, and yellow and red pepper slices, topped with cooked, crumbled bacon and drizzled with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette.
Create a tropical-style salad with cut green beans, pineapple chunks, cubed Canadian bacon, sliced red onion and slivered almonds dressed with sesame seed oil and rice vinegar.
Arrange a garden-fresh salad with sun-ripened tomato slices, cooked and chilled green beans, sliced boiled eggs and crumbled bacon on a plate with a spoonful of homemade mayonnaise on the side.
A gourmet version of traditional green bean casserole bypasses the canned mushroom soup and fried onions on top. Instead, mix green beans with sour cream, sauteed onions and garlic, grated Swiss cheese and cooked bacon strips cut into bite-size pieces. Bake in a medium-hot oven until the casserole top is light golden brown, then sprinkle slivered almonds on top for the familiar green-bean-casserole crunch.
For a simple one-dish meal, arrange frozen green beans and new potatoes in a casserole dish. Top with a layer of bacon slices and pour a mixture of melted butter, soy sauce, brown sugar and several dashes of garlic powder over everything. Baked at a medium-high temperature for about 45 minutes, the meal is ready to serve when the bacon is thoroughly cooked and the potatoes are soft.
- Serious Eats: Forget Al Dente: Braised Green Beans Are Where It's At
- Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud Cookbook; Daniel Boulud and Dorie Greenspan
- Epicurious: Green Bean, Yellow Pepper, and Bacon Salad With Oregano Vinaigrette
- Bake Until Bubbly: The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook; Clifford A. Wright
- Photo Credit 8vFanI/iStock/Getty Images
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