Monday, December 9, 2013

French Beans with Guanciale, Feta & Roasted Garlic

French beans recipe with feta guanciale roasted garlic French beans, also called string beans or haricots verts (that's French for green beans), are longer, more slender green beans that are picked while young and tender for a light and appealing flavor, delightful crunch and an elegant appearance -- unless you commit the culinary transgression of overcooking them, which renders them wrinkly and limp with faded flavor and a sad grayish pallor. Please don't commit this sin.

The following recipe was inspired by a Thanksgiving side dish, made by my sister-in-law, which received rave reviews from young and old alike. I've taken the liberty of adding my own zesty personal touch in the form of roasted garlic and balsamic vinegar. I also chose to replace the bacon she used in her recipe with hog jowls -- call them by their Italian name "guanciale" if you prefer the more sophisticated-sounding name for this lowly but magnificently flavorful part of the pig. If you just can't bring yourself to eat the cheeks of a pig instead of its belly -- or if you simply don't have guanciale but do have bacon -- by all means use bacon instead. I find that the guanciale imparts a smokier, meatier and more complex flavor than bacon, but be aware that it also adds to the total fat because hog jowls tend to be fattier than bacon.

French beans
Instead of relying on a clock or timer for cooking the French beans, you'll achieve the best results if you let your senses guide you as you saute the beans. Ideally, the beans should be pleasantly "al dente" and not overly wrinkled or mushy when done. But even if they end up a little more done than you had hoped, there's enough robust flavor in this dish to make up for some overcooking. If you're trying to time this dish so that it's ready with a longer-cooking main course, you can reduce the heat and let the beans cook more slowly, or even keep them over a warm burner if necessary until ready to serve.

One last note: You can multiply this recipe to make more servings, you can adjust all the ingredient amounts to suit your taste, and any leftovers can be refrigerated for reheating and enjoying over the next day or two.

1 lb French beans, washed, trimmed & cut in half
1/4 lb smoked hog jowl (guanciale), cut into approx. 1" chunks
2 to 3 Tbs chopped roasted garlic cloves
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste (I didn't use, but you may wish to)
Optional chopped parsley for garnish

smoked hog jowl guanciale
Frying smoked hog jowl chunks
Fry the guanciale chunks in a large, deep skillet or pan over medium heat until browned and starting to crisp.

Add beans and saute, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes or until bright green.

Add garlic & balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring regularly, for several minutes until beans are almost done and the vinegar has reduced down somewhat (you may want to lower the heat a little if the beans are cooking too quickly).

Add the cheese and cook, stirring regularly, until cheese melts a bit and the beans are done to your desired tenderness. Taste and season with salt and/or pepper if desired. Serve hot, garnished with parsley if desired.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS: These string beans are a delicious side dish to serve as part of your Christmas or New Year's dinner. For more holiday recipes and cooking tips, visit our Christmas & New Year's Recipes board on Pinterest.

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