Cooked green vegetables should be beautifully green, and just cooked through. As the great Escoffier wrote, introducing green beans in his Guide culinaire, they are "the most exquisite of vegetables, but they must be prepared with the greatest care. They are best when a little firm to the tooth, but without exaggeration." Great care, certainly, but there is nothing difficult about cooking a bean. You may either steam green beans, which is fast and easy and works well for small quantities, or boil them-and you can cook them several hours in advance without losing their fresh quality.
To steam green beans and other green vegetables: Set a steamer basket with the vegetables into a saucepan just large enough to hold it tightly covered. Add an inch of water, bring to the boil, and cover the pan tightly. Regulate heat to moderate. Green beans will take only 3 to 5 minutes if really fresh—watch attentively that you do not overcook, and taste a sample frequently until the beans are done. If you are not serving them at once, immediately refresh the beans in iced water to stop the cooking and set the color.
The Big Boil: This is more cumbersome than steaming, but it is recommended for large quantities. The immense amount of boiling water means the beans will come quickly to the boil, and the rapid cooling in ice water stops the cooking and sets the color. Bring a large kettle of water to the boil—6 quarts of water for 2 pounds of beans. Provide yourself with a colander and have two trays of ice cubes available. When the water is at the rolling boil, drop in the trimmed and washed beans. Add 2 tablespoons of salt (for 6 quarts of water), and cover the kettle for a minute or two until the boil is reached again. At once remove the cover and boil uncovered; after several minutes, begin tasting as a test, and keep tasting. They are done when they are just cooked through but still have the slightest crunch. Drain immediately, and either serve at once or immediately return the beans to the kettle and run cold water over them. When half full, drain again, add the ice to the kettle and cold water to cover. Drain in 5 minutes or so, when thoroughly chilled.
The finish: Whichever method you use, the drained and cooked beans are now ready to be reheated, or to be served cold in a salad.
Ahead-of-Time Note: The beans may be cooked several hours in advance, but to keep their freshly cooked taste, I always dry them thoroughly in clean towels, then refrigerate them in a covered bowl.
IN JULIA'S KITCHEN WITH MASTER CHEFS
by Julia Child
Photographs by Michael McLaughlin
U.S.A. $35.00, Canada $49.00 (Hardcover)
Alfred A. Knopf
(Reprinted with permission.)
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