My darling grandmother, Mama Dot, was born into a large farming family in rural Alabama, and out of necessity began cooking for the family at age eight. She stood on a wooden block so she could reach the top of their wood-burning stove.
One hard-working woman with a great deal of self discipline and steadfast faith, she wins the blue ribbon for true blue tried and true.
‘Buy Local’ and ‘Farm-To-Table‘ at her house was walking out to the vegetable garden with a basket and picking your ingredients. Which is why I oftentimes refer to sustainable cafes as ‘like my grandmother’s table.’
Today, I went to the market and found a huge bin of fresh green beans. They always remind me of her ever-so-long low boiled smoky bacon, onion and garlic recipe. I’ve had a few that have come close, but none have surpassed hers. She’s made them for over eighty years … now that’s a proven recipe.
First, cut off the stem ends and discard. Then cut the beans in half.
The rest … it’s all about seasoning and the loooooong low boil.
Saute onion with thick cut smoky bacon. Then add minced garlic.
2 cups water, 2 cups chicken broth.
Add salt, black pepper, and just to be sure it’s well seasoned, garlic and onion powder.
Rolling boil, add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Then reduce it all to medium low, cover and let it cook for 2 hours and 15 minutes. They would be tender enough at 45 minutes. In fact, they’re fantastic at 45 minutes. But the texture I love is when it seems like you put them on the back burner and forgot about them … when they’re falling apart but not mushy.
At this point, they’re perfect. You can stop right here. Don’t need anything but a big spoon and seconds. Flawless smoky flavor.
But for my version … it’s unavoidable… I had to add chiles. 2 cups of chopped green add a wonderful tang, and are a fantastic complement. They don’t overwhelm the tender beans, plus they add a boatload of vitamin C. Today I used mild canned from a favorite brand, but of course use fresh or from your frozen stash if you have them.
When you drain them, be sure to save the broth. I put all of this in a baggie that won’t be in my freezer for long because it’ll make the most delicious base for pork, posole and vegetable stew.
Here it is … American South and Southwestern fusion … for me that’s the best of both worlds. With a sprinkling of crisped bacon. I cannot leave them alone … I’ll be heating them up in the middle of the day for a snack, and again for supper.
And because I know Mama Dot is reading this …
…. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for teaching me to cook … for letting me hang out in your kitchen while you kept an eye on the biscuits, while the gravy thickened, the hams baked, the grits and casseroles bubbled, the fish fried. When I was young I didn’t realize … you put the same effort it takes to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner into pretty much every meal, each and every time we came to see you. No matter the season, it was Thanksgiving at your house. When I made your green bean recipe today my house smelled just like all of the holidays and summers spent with you. I loved that. And I hope when you think back on all of the years of looking after your siblings, then raising your family, later looking after your gaggle of grandchildren, and now have great-grandchildren asking for their Mama Dot, that you know you have always made us feel special and truly loved. You are amazing and I love you.
I’d Order That….
MAMA DOT’S BLUE RIBBON GREEN BEANS
- 2 lbs fresh green beans
- 2 Tblsp olive oil
- 1 large onion (chopped in small chunks)
- 4 pieces thick cut bacon
- 3 large garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 cups chicken stock (pref. low sodium non-msg)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups chopped green chile (mild, medium or hot - 27 oz. can)
- crisped bacon for garnish if desired
This is my Alabama born and raised grandmother's tried and true recipe. She's made this for over 80 years, so you can be sure it's a blue ribbon experience. I've added mild green chiles for a South meets Southwest fusion, and prefer mild green chiles so as not to overwhelm the tender green beans. But heat is subjective, like any work of art. So mild, medium or hot ... your preference.
|Prep the green beans by washing in cool water. Then cutting off the stem ends and cutting in half.|
|Heat the olive oil in a large pot to medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and bacon. Saute and stir for 5 to 6 minutes until the onions are just tender but not browned. Add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes.|
|Pour in the water and chicken broth. As it comes to a boil, add the salt, black pepper, onion and garlic powder.|
|Once it has reached a rolling boil, add the green beans. Boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to medium low heat (that's a 3 out of 10 on my stovetop) and cover with lid.|
|Let simmer for 2 hours -- meaning let it cook at a very low boil where the liquid is visibly bubbling and rolling, but not vigorously. Stirring every 20 minutes or so.|
|After 2 hours, add the 2 cups chopped green chiles. Simmer 15 more minutes at medium low.|
|When you drain everything, be sure to reserve all of the broth because it will make the most amazing base for a pork or veggie posole or hominy stew. So, drain and remove the bacon strips.|
|Serve warm. Top with crumbled crisp bacon if desired. |
As a side dish, or as a base for a gorgeous stuffed pork chop ... or as a main dish mixed with fingerling potatoes and sliced ham steak.