It doesn’t take much to dress up green beans for a holiday meal. In this recipe the beans first blanched and then sautéed with pancetta and shallots, with some salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning. You can use thinly sliced onion in place of the shallots or substitute bacon or diced ham for the pancetta if that is what you have on hand.
The secret to delicious green beans is using beans that are crispy fresh to begin with. Bend one in half; if it breaks easily, it’s fresh, if it just bends, without breaking, then it’s a little passed its prime and you’ll have a tougher time getting the beans to turn out well. The second tip is to not overcook the beans (though if they are older, you might have to cook them longer than usual to get them tender), and to douse them in an ice water bath after boiling to seal in their bright green color and to stop the cooking.
- 1 pound green beans, ends trimmed, strings removed (if any)
- 2 ounces pancetta, diced very small
- 2-3 large shallots, chopped
- 2 teaspoons butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
1 Blanch the beans in a large pot of boiling salted water 4 minutes, or until they are crisp tender. Note: Test one, if it is "chewy" keep the beans cooking a bit longer. If you are using French cut beans, or extra thin beans, they may not need to cook as long as 4 minutes; start testing them at 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain and place the beans in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside. (At this point you can make the beans a day ahead, store in refrigerator.)
2 Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta from the pan to a plate.
3 Add the shallots to the pan. Cook, stirring often, on medium high heat, in the fat rendered from the pancetta, until lightly browned.
4 Add butter to the pan; add the drained green beans and pancetta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the beans are hot and are well mixed with the shallots and pancetta. Serve immediately.