Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ancient Donelsonian secret

My favorite side dish has always been, and I imagine always will be, green beans -- especially well-seasoned green beans. My grandmother made the best green beans, which she seasoned with salt pork and onions, and holy hell I miss eatin' 'em. In fact, my stomach starts rumblin' just thinkin' about Granny Ruby's green beans.

Whenever I would go to my grandparents' house to eat, I'd start picking at the green beans before they'd even been ladled into a serving bowl. And woe unto anyone who didn't scoop some green beans onto his or her plate when we sat down to eat. Once I'd started into 'em, it didn't take long before they were all gone.

It takes time to cook good green beans. If my grandmother was using fresh beans, she'd put 'em in a pressure cooker and cook the you-know-what out of 'em for a couple of hours. Canned green beans didn't take quite as long, but they weren't just poured into a pan and heated through. She would let them simmer until most of the water was cooked away -- which is the secret to making really good green beans. Indeed, if you're not patient enough to let 'em simmer, simmer, simmer (as Justin Wilson was wont to say), then you might as well just eat 'em out of the can.

All that said, one of my mother's friends recently showed me how to cook tasty green beans without having to wait two hours for said beans to soak up the flavor of a big hunk of pork.

Here's what you'll need:

That is a box of Goya Sabor A Jamón de Cocinar (ham-flavored concentrate), which you can find at Wal-Mart, Kroger, Publix and Food Lion. There are 8 packages of concentrate per box, each of which equals the flavor of 1/4 lb of smoked ham.

Now, here's what you do for "quick" green beans:

Drain the canning water from a 1.5 lb can of Allen's green beans. Put the beans in a pan with just enough water to cover. Pour in one package of Goya ham seasoning and several twists of fresh black pepper. Cover pan and bring just to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cock lid so steam can escape. Cook 25 minutes, or until most of the water is gone. Remove from heat and stir. Re-cover and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, pork chops, steak, country ham ...

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