It’s the dead of winter and you’re tired of tasteless imported lettuce, green cabbage, leeks and Brussels sprouts.
You remember a bag of frozen organic green beans in the freezer. No matter how you cook them–sauteed, steamed, roasted, boiled–they’re always lame. Squeaky between your teeth, limp and bland.
But this time, inspired by a Saveur email alert, you try something completely different. Preheat the cast-iron pan, toss in the better part of a stick of butter. When it melts and bubbles, in go the 1-pound bag of green beans. They sit and begin to steam, then gradually lose their coating of frost.
Once they’re bright green, you hear sizzling and popping, you stir and see promising signs of color–ochre and brown. You attend to the dishes, the kids, the mess of construction paper on their play table. You come back and stir–more beans losing their green grass color and their plumpness.
On and on it goes for the better part of an hour, a stir and then you leave them to their soothing sizzling. When some of them change to brown-black you taste a bean to be sure you’re on the right track.
The one you want is the crispiest bean in the center of the pan. Buttery and pleasingly salty, it actually crunches lightly in your mouth, like a delicate French fry that is unmistakably green bean.
You keep going, letting the beans cook as long as they can stand and then eat half the pan before you call anyone else to dinner.
Are you dying for something green? Try these game-changing caramelized frozen green beans.
Caramelized Frozen Green Beans with Mushrooms
This recipe is originally from cookbook author Anne Willan who calls them "burnt beans." It deals with the problem of mushy green beans, which is what happens when you cook any frozen green bean--even those you've picked, blanched and frozen straight from your garden. But in this recipe, the beans slow cook until crispy. Don't fret the butter.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee
- 1 pound frozen green beans
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 medium cremini mushrooms, sliced
Heat a large cast-iron pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter.
When the butter foams, add the green beans, stir to coat them in the butter and leave them to heat until they're no longer frost coated, about 5 minutes.
Add the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low so that you can still hear them sizzling and stir the beans intermittently until they shrink, wrinkle and about half of them are darkly colored, about 30 minutes more.
Add the shallots and mushrooms for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking until the mushrooms brown and the shallots soften.
Taste for seasoning before serving.
For some reason, frozen green beans come in many sizes, from 10 ounces up 19 ounces. I've written this recipe for 1 pound of frozen green beans--home grown or commercial--so that you can readily scale it to whatever amount of green beans you have on hand.