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Braised Green Beans with Roasted Onions, Pine Nuts and Herbs

Braised Green Beans with Roasted Onions, Pine Nuts and Herbs
  

I love cooking in response to requests. Of course, request cooking means being consistent, like restaurant cooking: if the customer comes in just dying for that special dish that can only be had at your joint, you have to make it just the same as you have for the last ten thousand eager eaters. Same with request cooking for family and friends: they're not saying "surprise me" when they honor you with their request.

This can be a problem when you're restless and always ready for the next adventure in the kitchen, like me. The realization that professional cooking means doing it over and over again, more or less forever, was one of the reasons I never considered a professional culinary career, in spite of endless suggestions that I go that direction. But I still love request ccoking, primarily because a cook who loves food always wants to put deeply satisfying meals on the table, and cooking to request is the inside track to sure-fire success in that regard.

One of the most frequent requests I get comes from Elise: "Roast me a chicken sometime soon?" -- which is actually shorthand for "Roast me a chicken with lemon, garlic and herbs and serve it with a big bowl of garlic mashies and homemade gravy." I can do this meal in my sleep, so whenever I start out to do it I end up focusing my creative energies not on the main event but on the sides: the salad, bread or veggies that complete the meal.

Last week I roasted a chicken to Elise's request, and came up with this concoction of green beans braised in herbs, tomato and citrus and served with roasted onions, toasted pine nuts and some polenta croutons for the fresh addition to the familiar meal. I added orange zest (and used sesame oil instead of olive oil) in the rub for the chicken, for a subtle variation on the usual (I can't help myself!), so the orange/lemon flavoring of the beans nicely picked up the theme.

Braised Green Beans with Roasted Onions, Pine Nuts and Herbs

1 lb green beans, trimmed
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion
juice from 1/2 an orange
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 T butter
3 T fresh thyme, minced
1/4 C pine nuts
1 medium tomato, chopped
zest of 1/2 an orange
zest of 1/2 a lemon
16 - 20 dice-sized cubes of chilled cooked polenta*
salt, hot sauce to taste

Peel the onion and cut vertically into crescents. Toss in a little olive oil and roast about 30 minutes at 450º, tossing occasionally, until tender and starting to color at the edges. Set aside.

Place the pine nuts in a small dry skillet on high heat. Toss and stir the nuts continuously until they start to color. Remove to a paper towel when the nuts are about half browned and starting to char in places. Set aside.

Add two or three tablespoons of canola or other oil to the skillet and, when the oil is very hot but not yet smoking, scatter in the polenta dice. Fry, turning occasionally, until they start to brown and crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel and set aside.

Place the herbs, chopped tomato and a scant cup of water in a large skillet and bring to a strong simmer. Add the beans and toss in the liquid to coat. Cover and braise for 8 - 10 minutes, until the beans are tender but still crisp. Remove the beans with tongs to a side plate and set aside.

Add the butter and fruit juices to the pan, raise the heat and reduce the liquid until it starts to thicken a little. Add the roasted onions, beans and pine nuts and toss to coat with the sauce.

To serve, season to taste with salt and hot sauce and mound in a serving bowl. Garnish with a tangle of the zest and scatter on the polenta croutons.

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*Polenta - basic recipe

2-1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
3/4 C "instant" polenta meal (see note below)
2 T butter
2 T Parmeggiano Reggiano, shredded

Bring water to boil, add salt and then stir in the polenta meal. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring. When the polenta is nearly done stir in the butter and cheese.

To use for recipes that call for "chilled cooked polenta," spread the cooked polenta into an oiled dish, cover and chill until firm. The polenta may then be cut into shapes and grilled, fried or used in a gratin.

Note: Instant polenta. I use the wonderful Roland brand polenta meal, which cooks much faster than the traditional corn meal. I've actually never made polenta with regular corn meal -- if you can't find the Roland product or want to try the traditional way, here's a LINK to an Epicurious recipe.

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Comments

Everyday ingredients combined in an unusual way ... LOVE it!

How do you make polenta
croutons?

Mair..I added the basic recipe for polenta to the post...of course, I didn't (and wouldn't) make the chilled polenta just to get the croutons! Whenever I make polenta as a side dish I always chill some for whatever use I might want to make of it...this time it was the croutons...thanks for your interest in Stephencooks!

Welcome back Stephen! I'm back too and thanks for your kind words. Again, I love your recipe although I might give the polenta a miss. I know it's very plebian of me but I just prefer mash potatoes.

The green bean side looks awesome and I'm definitely bookmarking it.

I must say, Stephen, your dishes are the ones I "borrow" most often. Thanks for sharing.

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