Give Thanks for Sides Haricots Verts with Brown Butter, Ham and Pecans

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It’s the beginning of November, folks, and time to start thinking of Thanksgiving sides. I’m pretty traditional with what I serve these days. Many years ago I went through a very long phase of serving anything but the standard fare. One year was an Italian Thanksgiving, the next Puerto Rican and following that Italian. That was one FINE feast. I served a Vitello Tonnato that would make you lie down and weep it was so good. And the creamy, dreamy Tiramisu for dessert was celestial! You see, I don’t really like turkey. I’m just not a big fan except for the “oysters”, the large, oval pieces of meat which sit on both sides of the backbone. So I wasn’t exactly compelled to roast another  big, bland bird.  Or do that green-bean-mushroom-soup thing that ends up looking like barf.  Sorry, but it does.  And that thin, runny gravy with little fragments of chopped hard-boiled egg and liver covering MY mashed potatoes?  Not in my house.  Until the year when the mother of one of James’ friends asked him if he enjoyed Thanksgiving and Mama’s food which must be absolutely delicious? He didn’t realize it but I was within earshot. I waited for his response, a little smile started on my face in anticipation of the loving, complimentary answer from my first grader. “Yes”, he replied, “It’s always really good but I wish that just one time we could have regular turkey and gravy and pumpkin pie”.  He almost sounded wistful verging on sad.  It was heartrending for me.  I thought, “Never again will I prepare anything for Thanksgiving that veers from the classic, time-honored American fare.”  And I haven’t!  Because nothing makes me happier than when my boy’s happy and I know many of y’all feel the saaaame way.  I’ll do it but I’ll do it my way.  And that would be with beaucoup flavor.  So let’s get on with my first side, French Green Beans, (Haricots Verts), in brown butter, roasted pecans and tiny bits of salty, sautéed ham.  I like the french green beans better than the typical Blue Lake variety that are found at every grocery store in America.  The French ones have more flavor, they’re not watery and the end result is firmer.  Publix carries Haricot Vert and they even have their own brand.  I am NOT leading you down the path of ruin!!!  Try them out before hand and you’ll see for yourself.  They can be steamed right in the bag in the microwave and then lightly tossed with olive oil and garlic, a little salt and pepper and they’re delicious.  That’s what my friend, Jody, does and her kids gobble them up.  Yep.  Green beans. Sometimes I also saute a little shallot in the browned butter for further flavor.  This recipe allows you to prepare the dish in advance and then warm it just before serving.  And did I mention it’s really pretty on the table?  Oh, yeah!  Pink and green, baby!!  It’s a Southern thing!

Exquisitely delicious browned butter.  Actually heard the "tssss" of my tongue burning while licking the spoon.  Well worth it!
Exquisitely delicious browned butter. Actually heard the “tssss” of my tongue burning while licking the spoon. Well worth it!

Haricots Verts in Browned Butter with Pecans and Ham

yield:  4-6 servings

  • 1 pound French green beans, haricots verts
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly roasted
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped ham
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  1. Steam or microwave beans until al dente.   Set aside.
  2. In a small pan melt butter on medium high heat and stir continuously so as not to burn.  It will quickly turn a beautiful brown which is what you want.  But keep your eyes on it.  You want it browned not burned.  Add pecans, stir well and take off the heat.
  3. Put oil in a medium to large pan and bring the heat up to medium high.  When the pan is hot add the ham and shake the pan every now and again to get a few crusty pieces.  When the color is to your liking add the browned butter and pecans, stir well and set aside.
  4. This is the point where you can stop and cover everything up to serve later.
  5. Drop the heat to low and add green beans to the pecan ham mixture.  Stir well to warm the beans through and coat with the all the other ingredients.
  6. Serve immediately.  Or as soon as you can!
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