Green beans are a versatile summer treat. Make a salad, serve them as a side with just a little butter and salt and pepper, roast them, use in stir fry, your options are endless. One of my favorite preparations includes bacon. How can you not love a vegetable dish with bacon? Sure, it may not be the healthiest way to get your veggies, but sometimes you just need to splurge a bit, especially for those special occasions. I’ve received many compliments on this dish over the years, so a few weeks ago I entered it in the Cass County Backyard Chef Contest to see how well it would fare against the competition. Well, it turned out to be a hit. This dish took first place in the side dish category and I walked away with 100 dollars and a large trophy. After the competition I had a number of requests for the recipe, so as promised, I am posting it here.
Ingredients (4-6 servings)
- Approximately 2 pounds of fresh green beans
- 2 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 pound of bacon
- 1 medium shallot
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
As you can see, it’s a fairly simple dish, but sometimes keeping things simple and letting the flavors of quality ingredients speak for themselves is the best approach. Start by getting the freshest green beans you can find. I picked mine up from Backyard Produce at the Granger Farmer’s Market. Wash the beans and trim the stem ends while bringing a pot of water to a boil. You’ll also want to get another large skillet on the stove and ready for the bacon. When it comes to bacon I typically go for my cast iron skillet, but whatever you like to use is fine.
You want the bacon to get fairly crispy, but not so crispy it crumbles. You’re going to chop it into small pieces and it’s good to have a crispy, yet slightly chewy texture. When the bacon is done just let it drain on paper towel and let it cool so it will be easier to work with. Now it’s time to address the bacon fat in the pan. We want some of this deliciousness, so discard all but about two tablespoons of the grease from the pan.
By now your water should be up to a boil, so it’s time to add the beans. How long you cook them is up to you and your preferred tenderness. For this dish I like them tender, but not yet completely soft. They still have a decent crunch when you bite into them, but they aren’t snap crisp. This means a cooking time of around 15 minutes. Usually after 10 minutes I’ll begin testing them at about 1-2 minute intervals until they reach perfection. Once they hit that point the best thing to do is to drain the beans and then plunge them into ice water. This stops the cooking process and you’ll be sure to have perfect beans on the serving platter.
While the beans are cooking you can get the rest of your ingredients prepared. Mince the clove of garlic and shallot and quarter your tomatoes. Halves are fine if you have small tomatoes. After everything is cut and ready to go it’s back to the skillet.
Over low heat, toss in the butter. When it’s melted, add the shallots and sweat them for a few minutes to soften. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. When that’s done it’s time to invite the tomatoes to the party.
After adding the tomatoes, simply toss to coat and add a good pinch of kosher or sea salt and some black pepper. For this dish I really like to use sel gris salt. It adds something just a little extra special and melts almost instantly when it hits the warm tomatoes. Anyway, we aren’t trying to cook the tomatoes here and simply want to warm them through. Next, add the chopped bacon back into the pan. This is also a good time to add the lemon juice. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t skip the lemon. With the richness of the bacon fat and butter you absolutely need some acid to cut through it. If you don’t, you’ll end up with heavy, greasy tasting beans. I made that mistake once. Never again.
Finally, the star of the show can join the others, so add the beans and toss well to coat and cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes to allow the beans to warm back up. As you’re doing this be sure to taste to see if you need any more salt and pepper and add as necessary. When everything tastes good it’s off to the serving platter of your choice where you can then top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
The colors in this dish make it a real eye-catcher. Bright greens, vivid reds, and white all come together to make an irresistible platter. The next time you’re having company over and you want to impress them, try these beans. Just don’t be surprised when a side dish takes center stage and becomes the highlight of the evening.