Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Drunk Green Beans

OK, that's not really their name.

Except that it is for the sake of the recipe.

In my family, from the time I was born until now, these have always just been referred to as "green beans". But I needed a way to differentiate mine from the people who just open a can of green beans, boil them in the can water, and throw in a pat of butter to finish them off. These are on a whole other level. They needed a cool name.

I have no idea where the idea came from, but they became a staple in my family. My very first memory of green beans, and every green bean that my mom or grandmother ever cooked after that was drunk. I always assumed my grandmother brought the idea over with her from England. Maybe she had a friend here in the states cook them that way, and she stole the idea. Maybe she just invented it one day. Maybe my mom came up with the idea. I have no idea. Maybe I should ask.

The drunk part comes from sherry. If you don't know what sherry is, it is wine fortified with brandy. It's fabulous! I adore sherry, especially in cooking. Please go out and get yourself a bottle of GOOD dry sherry. I've seen really good sherry for less than $5 a bottle at liquor outlets. Don't be afraid if all you are ever going to use it for is green beans. It lasts forever in your cabinet or pantry. Just don't use that cooking sherry stuff. Or if you do, don't tell me about it. Just like with wine, if it's not good enough to drink from a glass, you shouldn't cook with it.

As with most of my recipes, this truly is a method. It can truly be a clean-out-the-fridge side dish, or it can be a well planned Thanksgiving dish that will become a tradition in your family for years to come. As for the onions.....I don't care if you use white, yellow, red or green. I don't care if you use Vidalias or pearls. Go fancy and use shallots. Heck, use chives. Just get the onion flavor in there. Typical week nights meals, I use yellow or green since those are what I always have on hand. Holiday meals I usually use shallot. Just cause it sounds fancier.

And of course, (as my best friend in the entire world will be happy to hear), the water chestnuts are optional. Leave them out if you hate them as much as she does. Put them in if you want a unique crunch. Or if you want to make the meal look more complicated that it actually is. ;)

All that really matters is that you get the green beans drunk.

Well drunk, then cook the alcohol out. Unless you want the kids to sleep well!

Drunk Green Beans

2 pounds of green beans, stem removed & snapped (or whole if you like!)
3 strips of bacon
1/2 cup of chopped onion (or scallion, shallot!)
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 can of sliced water chestnuts
2 tbsp of butter or olive oil (optional, you can use the bacon grease!)
1/2 cup of sherry
salt & pepper to taste

Steam the green beans (steaming retains nutrients, you can boil them if you like) 5-6 minutes. You want them completely cooked, as they will continue to cook as you cook everything together. While the beans are steaming, fry your bacon to the crispiness of your liking. Drain bacon well on paper towels.

Here is where you have a decision to make. If you want the bacon flavor absorbed into your mushrooms, use the bacon grease. As heavenly as bacon-soaked mushrooms are, I prefer more caramelization on my mushrooms than you will get if there is any salt in the pan, so saute' mine in a separate pan in a mixture of unsalted butter & olive oil. This takes patience and time, but I cook them slowly over medium heat until they are well caramelized. You can cook the garlic & onions with the mushrooms, or be cooking them in the bacon grease in your other pan (this is my favorite option as it maximizes the flavor of both the onions AND the mushrooms!).

Combine green beans, onions, garlic, mushrooms & water chestnuts in one pan (either the one with the bacon grease or the one with the butter....which ever is larger!). Heat together over medium high heat til everything is hot and coated in the grease/butter. Holding pan off of an open flame, add the sherry. Scrape the pan well to deglaze. Continue to cook until the sherry cooks down. You don't want it completely dry, but you want a thicker sherry/butter/bacon grease sauce that just lightly coats everything. Salt & pepper to taste. Add crumbled bacon. And most importantly......ENJOY!

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