While perusing Face Book recently, I stumbled upon Chris Kimball’s recipe for Sweet and Spicy Ginger Green Beans. (As you may recall, Chris was with America’s Test Kitchen for years, but now has the Milk Street food magazine.) Chris declared this version of green beans to be the best he’d ever eaten, as did a number of reviewers.
I had to see for myself. After all, I grew up believing that green beans were only edible if cooked for hours with the help of a ham hock and some new potatoes.
As it turns out, Chris espouses a helpful flavor theory. Sauté your vegetables a couple of minutes in a bit of oil first, he advises. Sunflower or grapeseed oil work best. The light sauté gives a nice exterior to the beans. Then add some water, cover pan, and let the veggies steam a few minutes until under-tender. (This is where Chris and I part ways. I like my beans less al dente than this recipe calls for.)
Next Chris adds a tablespoon more oil, some grated ginger and red pepper, and cooks the beans for 30 seconds.
That done, he pours in a mixture of brown sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce and cooks another minute. Just until things thicken a bit.
Before serving, Chris anoints the dish with a splash of vinegar and white pepper. (Not to be confused with the “vinegar and brown paper” used by Jack to mend his head in the old nursery rhyme.)
The beans were really quite good. But when cooking again I’d use haricot vert, the slender/tender variety with the French name. I’m thinking, too, that this great stir fry sauce would work well with carrots or broccoli or a combo of veggies.
Board the Red Boat
After Russ brought me green beans from Soulard Market for this dish, I thought I was ready to rumble. Drats! I didn’t have the fish sauce. I had nuoc cham, the Vietnamese dipping sauce, that contains fish sauce, so I used that. (These days if you wait until you have every little ingredient for a recipe, you’ll eat a lot of tv dinners in the interim.).
In the event you do buy the flavorful fish sauce, look for Red Boat. It’s only ingredients are fermented black anchovies and salt. Good stuff, especially in Asian cuisine. It’s available on Amazon If you’re trying to minimize your store shopping. I recently ordered two bottles that arrived today.
As to whether this recipe for green beans Is the best I’ve ever eaten, I have to say my mother’s long-cooked green beans with ham flavoring still tops my list. But this dish is definitely a close second.