Green Beans – cooked low and slow

I was invited to a New Orleans-themed Christmas Day dinner which was to feature Bloody Marys, Jambalaya, crab cakes, and Amaretto Bread Pudding – all of which were wonderful. I said “I’ll bring the vegetable – Green Beans cooked low and slow.”

Trust me – you can get these into the oven in less time then it will take you to read the rest of this post. These beans call on four skills: turning on the stove and the oven at the same time, chopping and pouring. They are not crisp, steamed green beans. They are an entirely other food: meltingly soft and sublime. Depending on how you flavor it and who you are, it will conjure up dinners you had or dinners you wish you’d had…

With 800+ cookbooks and a huge representation of works about the South, I have memories of Southern writers declaring that they would walk over hot coals for Grandma’s Green Beans. Sadly, when I set out to find directions for this iconic “Grandma made it” recipe for beans cooked overnight with a pork product, specific instructions were hard to find. Why write a recipe for something that Granny made by instinct? Querying northern and mid-western friends turned up nothing. Pals from the south had heard of it or had it in their childhood, but no one had ever made it. Standing at the bean bin in the grocery store, I did meet a woman from Kentucky who said that she used to make it with bacon grease, but because of her husband’s high cholesterol, she uses olive oil. I turned to the web.

I won’t bore you with my labors. The web was not a good source for erudite discussion of Granny’s Green Beans. With persistence, I found a wide range of differences as to the amount of liquid, the cooking time, temperature, and how tightly to cover the pot. My research ultimately turned up three Schools of Cooking Green Beans Low and Slow, each providing many opportunities for disputation among cooks and their extended families:

1. Pork Product: Ham hock? Bacon – cooked or uncooked? Bacon Grease? Some pork? Lots of pork? Just bacon grease and onion? No onion?
2. Turkey wings: My pal Eileen O’Toole, always a font of culinary advice, has a friend who uses smoked turkey wings to get the smoky flavor without the bacon fat.
3. Vegetarian: Beans, onion and diced tomatoes. What could be simpler?

You should not be surprised that I made all three, and that my dinner pals were enthusiastic tasters. First up? Vegetarian beans and tomatoes. It was in the oven overnight, and it was all I could do NOT to eat it for breakfast, thus depriving my friends of their introduction to a delightful green bean. I will make this often. My friends, who grew up with bacon, loved the bacon-only dish. I wasn’t so keen on it. Although I am a fan of crispy bacon, I found these to be thin and one-note. Smoked turkey? No one’s fave, but no one disliked it. It is, indeed, a great compromise for smoky-food-fans who keep Kosher.

Let me discourage you from considering a slow cooker. You are going to braise these beans, and their liquid needs to evaporate and concentrate just a bit. A tightly lidded slow cooker won’t do it.

GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES

1 small onion, sliced thin
1 cup of fresh peppers sliced thin (red, green, hot)
½ tsp to 1 T crushed red peppers
1 15-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 to 2 pound of green beans, trimmed to your satisfaction
Water, salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 225. In an oven-safe pan with a lid that will hold the beans, saute the onion and peppers, stirring occasionally, until you have finished trimming the beans. Add the can of tomatoes, water to cover the beans and peppers, salt, pepper and crushed red peppers. Bring the liquid to a boil. Loosely cover the pan and put it into the oven for six to 10 hours or overnight.

GREEN BEANS WITH BACON

4 ounces of bacon, chopped fine and crisped (reserve 1T bacon fat)
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 to 2 pounds of green beans, trimmed to your satisfaction
Water, salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 225. In an oven-safe pan with a lid that will hold the beans, crisp the bacon.
While the bacon is crisping, trim the beans. Remove the bacon and all but 1T bacon fat from the pan. Saute the onion, stirring occasionally, until you have finished trimming the beans. Add the beans and half the crisped bacon. Loosely cover the pan and put it into the oven for six to 10 hours or overnight. Sprinkle the reserved bacon over the finished dish.

GREEN BEANS WITH SMOKED TURKEY WING AND DICED TOMATOES

1 cup (more or less) of smoked turkey wing meat
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 15-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 to 2 pounds of green beans, trimmed to your satisfaction
Crushed red pepper (1/2 tsp to 1 T – your choice)
Water, salt, pepper

Heat the oven to 225. In an oven-safe pan with a lid that will hold the beans, saute the onion and the turkey meat, stirring occasionally, until you have finished trimming the beans. Add the can of tomatoes, water to cover the beans, salt, pepper and crushed red peppers. Bring the liquid to a boil. Loosely cover the pan and put it into the oven for six to 10 hours, or overnight.

About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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