Home for the Holidays
Lemony Green Beans dressed in Sherry | Shallot | Hazelnut | Herbs
Green bean casserole. There are lovers and there are haters. And a few folks in between.
I'm one of those in between. I like the version EXACTLY like my mother made. I want french-cut green beans, little factory-cubed morsels of mushroom, slivered almonds (not sliced, not chopped, NOT absent), and I want the topping of canned fried onions to remain crispy, please. My demands aren't many, are they?
We have a history, green beans and my mother's dinners, that is. We had canned green beans several times a week, if memory serves me. A healthy dollop of bacon grease, a sprinkling of dried minced onion, a little too much salt. I had no complaints. They were my favorite of the canned vegetables in rotation, in fact. I'd never had fresh green beans-- wouldn't even know what they tasted like until later in childhood, when Mom cooked a fresh pot with bacon (with MEAT on it) and the same dried minced onion. If I recall correctly, I ate them. But they weren't REAL green beans like the ones from the can.
My appetites have matured over the years, and I haven't had a canned green bean of my own preparing in decades. Green beans grow well in the South, and they can be found at markets well into winter. I learned a little over the years about preparing green beans that remained both green, and bean in appearance and texture, and became even more a fan of fresh than my childhood appetite-preferred canned.
And this dish is so QUICK. In the time it takes to open 8 cans, you're well on your way to a sophisticated, impressive vegetable side for the holiday table that might just sway the most stalwart casserole-committed among your guests.
I've played it fast and loose with the measurements, here. I'll share the proportions just as I would prepare them.
Green Beans-- allow for a healthy handful per serving
Shallot-- one shallot per serving
Olive Oil-- a glug of oil to cover small saucepan by 1/4 inch
Thyme-- a small sprig per serving
Parsley-- minced, about a teaspoon per serving
Hazelnut-- an ounce or so per serving, slightly cracked
Sherry-- about a jigger full for 4 servings
Lemon-- about 1 lemon for every 2-4 servings, both juice and zest
Sea Salt and freshly-ground black pepper-- to taste
Trim beans of any strings and ends. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drop beans in boiling water and continue at the boil for about 4 minutes or until still slightly crisp, but tender enough to bite. When done to your liking, strain from the boiling water and place directly into ice water bath to blanch for about 2 minutes. Remove to drain on paper toweling.
To prepare dressing, warm olive oil in small saucepan over medium low heat. Add sliced shallots, thyme sprigs, minced parsley, and smashed hazelnuts (I just put them between two layers of towel and smash with my kitchen mallet a few times. Don't want to pulverize the hazelnuts-- just make them manageable to eat and promote infusion.) Cook low and slow until shallots are completely wilted. Add sherry to the pan, raise heat to medium, and cook five minutes, stirring frequently. Add lemon juice and warm through, about 2 minutes.
Add reserved green beans to dressing, tossing to coat in pan. Transfer to a serving dish and grate lemon zest over. Season with salt, cracked black pepper, and additional lemon juice if desired.
This Holiday season on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for Dressing 3 Ways: Oyster, Rice, & Cornbread, Mashed Potatoes with Giblet Gravy, Golden Yeast Rolls, Lemony Green Beans dressed in Sherry, Shallot Hazelnut & Herbs, Oyster Dressing-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Quail, Sherried Sage Peppercorn pan sauce, and not shown, Cranberry Apricot Brandy Sauce, Persimmon Pudding, and Orange Blossom Ambrosia.