Alpine Green Bean Gratin
by Kate Heyhoe
I first had this dish in a tiny hostel in the Swiss Alps. It was springtime and the edelweiss really did cover the vast hilltops, just like in the song. (I kept expecting Julie Andrews to burst over the peak). The young tender grass was bright green and contrasted sharply against the shady areas where snow still clung to the mountain. We had been hiking that day, frolicking amongst the beauties of nature, and returned to the hostel invigorated by the earth's rebirth, but famished beyond belief. That night the owner and cook of the hostel served up a country dish that was not just delicious, but it magically captured the colors of that day. The vivid green of the beans poking through the creamy white sauce and golden crust is as close a picture of the Alps in springtime as any recipe can get. Savor it with roast chicken, or serve as a warm side dish to a plate of charcuterie.
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (Emmenthaler, Gruyere, or Jarlsberg)
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. French-cut the green beans by cutting them in half lengthwise, running the knife down the flat part between the seams of the bean. If the beans are long, cut them at an angle into lengths of about 2 inches. Steam over boiling salted water until crisply tender, from 3 to 5 minutes. When cooked through but still slightly crunchy, remove them from the steamer. (Optional: To arrest the cooking, plunge the green beans into an ice bath; this will also help retain the bright green color. Drain and pat dry before continuing.)
2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the onion. Sauté until translucent. Stir in the sour cream, pepper and the green beans. Add salt to taste. Mix to coat all ingredients and turn off the heat.
3. Lightly coat a shallow baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread the green bean mixture evenly in the pan. Layer the cheese on top, followed by the bread crumbs. Dot with small pieces of the remaining tablespoon of butter. (At this point the dish can either be baked immediately or held refrigerated for as long as 24 hours before baking; bring to room temperature before cooking.)
4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sauce bubbly. Serve hot or warm.
Kate's Global Kitchen
Kate's Global Kitchen for April, 2000:
4/01/00 Food Jokes and Joke Foods
4/08/00 Easter and Passover Menus: From Nice to Greece
4/15/00 Spring Centerpiece Sides: Phyllo Baskets, Veggie Matchsticks, and Glorious Gratins
4/22/00 Easter Lore & Post-Easter Eggs
4/29/00 Wake-Up: It's Daylight Savings Time! World Power Breakfasts
Copyright © 2000, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created April 2000