The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Green Beans Braised Three Hours

July 15th, 2009 · 5 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes

Green beans need to cook a long time to develop their full flavor

Green beans need to cook a long time to develop their full flavor

Not only does braising green beans for three hours really work, but this particular recipe of mine, first published in The Washington Post, was selected as one of the best ever in Houghton Mifflin’s The Best American Recipes series of cookbooks.

Cooking green beans to death is a classic Southern treatment, but it’s also very Old World. My host mother when I was an exchange student in Switzerland prepared them like this in a pressure cooker and they were the best beans I’d ever tasted. The beans are kind of ugly in the end. They lose their bright green color. But the trade-off is for tons of flavor. Turns out the flavor compounds in beans don’t develop unless you subject them to heat for a long period of time. And that’s just the way I like them. I’m not looking for the taste of chlorophyll in my beans.

The process is simple. Slice an onion into thin strips and sweat it until tender in bacon grease in a heavy pot. Add the beans and a can of diced tomatoes and season with ground fennel seed, salt and pepper. I usually top everything off with a couple of strips of bacon for extra flavor. But you can make a vegetarian version by skipping the bacon and using olive oil to start the onion.

 The liquid from the tomatoes should be enough to cook a pound or more of beans. In fact, this might be the perfect place to use some of the canning tomatoes you have growing in the garden, if you have a few that are ripe but aren’t enough to start a round of canning. That’s what I did here. Except I did not realize that the Kentucky  Wonder beans we are growing in our garden this year are not a stringless variety when they get older. Oops! Not a pretty sight at the dinner table, but they are still delicious.

For more precise directions, use this link to the original recipe. And here’s another secret: an old-fashioned skillet corn bread is the perfect thing for mopping up the exquisite juices these beans make.

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  • fastweedpuller

    That sounds like a good treatment for overgrown beans. You know that always happens: you try to keep on top of picking them, but alas!! In general I am averse to cooking things to death (collards and mustard greens being the exception) but this sounds good, Ed, even reading it over breakfast!

  • The Wife

    Please check to see if you need to de-string the beans, especially if they are older, before cooking. The over dramatic daugher accused Ed of trying to choke her as she gagged on the strings at dinner last night. Hey, at least she ate tried the green beans!

  • fastweedpuller

    Hah! Will do, wifey-poo. But I am glad to hear the girl ate those beans!

  • linkmaxbub

    I do a Lebanese version of long cooked flat green beans with tomatoes. It’s very similar to your version, Ed, except it uses olive oil instead of bacon grease, ground cinnamon instead of fennel seed, and some chopped garlic gets thrown in with the onion at the beginning of the recipe. Finish it off at the end of the cooking with lashings of chopped parsley and dig in.

  • Ed Bruske

    max, I had a reader recollect a very similar recipe from her Lebanese mother, green beans cooked a long time. The cinnamon and garlic make perfect sense, a slightly different twist. I’ll bet it’s excellent.