Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Simplicity - the ultimate sophistication

I was never such a big fan of green beans. Neither green string beans, nor the somewhat fancier Haricots verts, or French green beans. Nothing really against them, I was just not wild about them.

To be fair, the preparations from my childhood were really criminal. Usually taken from the freezer as a solid block. Boiled till they died a soggy, mushy, tasteless death. Or the dreaded cream of mushroom soup / green bean casserole. Gag!

I could never do that to anyone I cooked for.

But I’ve continued looked for ways to work with them that resulted in something edible. Adding them to soups and stews. Sweating them in butter – which is OK, but not so tasty a result as with carrots. I have had a lot of success using them in Cantonese dishes in place of broccoli or asparagus, where they just get flash –fried. They retain their taste and character to a large extent. But I’m not sure this is the optimal way to showcase the bean itself – they are in more of a supporting role here.

Fortunately, fate came to the rescue.

Due to some heavy carrot snacking while I was out shopping, I returned with chickens and potatoes for roasting, and no other vegetable but French beans. Because, of course, I had tons of carrots waiting for me. Carrots which were going to be roasted along with the chickens and potatoes. Carrots which could no longer be found. Just some carrot top remnants in the disposal. The guilty party pleaded ignorance (hard to argue against that one!).

So I started the chicken, added the potatoes to roast along side, and wondered what to do. Dinner without piles of vegetables just doesn’t work around here.

It would have to be the beans, somehow. While snipping off their little ends, I thought about tossing them in some olive oil and thyme. Maybe just adding them right to the roasting pan. Right on top of the potatoes, which were almost done.

Surely not a new idea, but it was new to me. And simple.

What came out were the best green beans I’ve ever made, French or otherwise. The flavor was intense. A wonderful green beany taste, with a roasted edge to it, infused with the aroma of thyme. If you catch them at the right time, the texture is very nice as well (over-roasting can cause them to whither a bit).

This became a sudden favorite. Simplicity elevated to sophistication. I never looked back.

The beans can also be roasted together with the pan juices from the chicken. I have done this a few times when I stuffed the chicken with lemon and thyme. That’s nice as well, as you get the wonderful lemony flavor in the green beans. But you have to be careful to take them out when done, and to scoop them out of the juices before they get soggy.

I usually roast my chickens at 375ºF – some suggest a hotter, some a cooler oven, but that is a post for another day. At 375ºF, the beans take just 20-30 minutes. They’re done when they are a bit wrinkled, but not yet withered and droopy.

Lemon and Thyme Roasted Chicken with Roasted Red Potatoes and Thyme-roasted Haricot Verts


I roasted a 6 lb chicken stuffed with lemons, parsley and thyme for 2 hours at 375ºF. I added about 4 lbs of small red potatoes that had been tossed in olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper for the last 1 ¼ hours. I tossed 1 ½ lbs of French beans in a little thyme and olive oil, and roasted them for the last 25 minutes on top of the potatoes, everything in the same roasting pan.

Remove the chcken to a carving plate, let sit 10 minutes before carving. Scoop the potatoes and beans to a serving bowl. Pour the pan juices into a glass measuring cup or bowl (or one of those seperator cups). After 10 minutes a wonderful pan juice broth will be at the bottom.

The potatoes roast in the lemony pan juices, and the French beans pick up that wonderful thyme essence. The chicken gets a little lemon – thyme flavor to it as well.

A wonderful dish – simply sophisticated! Enjoy!

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Blogger MM said...

That looks delicious. I love haricot verts too but my favourite way with them is to give them a really quick blanch, then dress them with a little olive oil and sliced garlic and finally, a quick grill. Toss them with crumbled bacon, a light vinaigrette of lemon juice, dijon mustard, a touch of balsamic vinegar, pinch of sugar and olive oil ... and you have a fab and simple salad. I like it so much I sometimes just have it alone.

5:59 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

mm - thanks for the comment! I'll try your suggestion - it sounds great!

11:22 PM  

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