I was wondering how Pancetta Green Beans, this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, made its way into Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, but now I know there is Italian pancetta and ventrèche, French-style pancetta. Like bacon, ventrèche is made with pork belly and cured rather than smoked. It is meatier than bacon, and can be sliced thin, seared, and used in salads or canapés, or used to wrap lean meats for flavor and moistness.
Dorie adds crispy pancetta to green beans for "a speck of saltiness, another texture, and elements of elegance and surprise." Although not specifically called for, I used haricots verts, French for "green beans," a longer, thinner type of green bean than the typical, American green bean.
Although this is a very simple side dish to prepare, it is essential to blanch the green beans in heavily salted, boiling water until they are cooked through. The green beans are then plunged into an ice bath to stop the cooking, until thoroughly chilled, which results in vividly-colored, perfectly seasoned green beans.
I consulted Thomas Keller, chef extraordinaire, on this issue. Tom's "big-pot blanching" calls for a hefty one cup of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, 3lb per gallon of water. "You need to have enough water so that it doesn't lose its boil when you add the vegetables...the faster a vegetable is cooked, the greener it becomes." The quantity of salt seasons the vegetables and "prevents the color from leaching into the water."
Keller's Ad Hoc at Home not only has incredible recipes, but also includes words of wisdom, or lightbulb moments, on becoming a better cook...Great product + great execution = great cooking.
To drain the green beans after blanching, set them on a cooling rack lined with paper towels, over a baking sheet, so the beans don't sit in the excess water.
Coarsely chop the pancetta, sauté until frizzled and crisp, and drain on paper towels.
A few minutes before you are ready to serve, return the green beans and pancetta to the pan, stir over medium heat until heated through, season with a fresh grind of pepper, and drizzle with a little olive or walnut oil.
Our pancetta green beans paired beautifully with fresh, local halibut seasoned with a light Cajun spice rub.
There are many variations on this side dish, and I've included a few links to some that look especially good...
Green Beans with Pancetta and Mint (Saveur)
Sauteed Green Beans with Pancetta and Mushrooms (Tyler Florence)
Green Beans with Sage and Pancetta (Bon Appetit)
Green Beans with Pancetta, Garlic and Herbs (Fine Cooking)
Green Beans with Pancetta and Pine Nuts (Williams Sonoma)
Spaghetti with Pancetta, Green Beans and Basil (Martha Stewart)
Finally, since I've got you here, you must try these Brussels sprouts. I ordered them as a side dish with my $60 steak, at Michael Mina's Stripsteak, Las Vegas (Best. Steak. Ever. I'd much rather spend money on food than gambling in Vegas). When I returned home, I made them for John, who hated Brussels sprouts, and we're both hooked. You could easily substitute pancetta for the bacon.
Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Slightly adapted from Michael Mina
4 slices bacon (or pancetta), cut into small dice
1 pound young Brussels sprouts, tough or torn outer leaves discarded
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
About 6 dried juniper berries (Juniper Berries Whole), crushed and finely chopped
Separate the Brussels sprouts into individual leaves, by trimming the bottom and tearing off leaves. Keep trimming a little off the bottom to release the leaves and discard the inner core.
Saute the bacon over medium-high heat in a medium saute pan, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes, until it is slightly crisp but still meaty-chewy in the center.
Add the leaves to the skillet, tossing gently to combine. Cook for a few minutes, until they are slightly wilted; do not overcook. Add the butter and stir until melted, then add the diced apple and juniper berries. Toss gently until the ingredients are evenly coated. Serve immediately.
Now, go eat your greenies!
French Fridays with Dorie is a online group of home chefs, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan's latest book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. Dorie says this book is about one of her great loves, France and its food, and is filled with stories of French life and "recipes for the elbows-on-the-table food" that she and her friends prepare in France today. The cookbook was a gift to myself for Christmas, and I've been on a French diet ever since!
French Fridays with Dorie rules do prohibit posting the actual recipe in our blog posts, to encourage purchase of the cookbook. However, this is truly a beautiful cookbook, full of incredible French dishes. Some recipes appear very simple, and some appear challenging, but all are approachable for the average home cook.