Y’all know the ones ~ they come in cans and are the main ingredient in the classic Green Bean Casserole ~ a holiday must-have since the recipe was first published in 1955. Back in the day, Mama’s pantry was well stocked with cans of French Green Beans, Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup, and Durkee’s French Fried Onions. You just never knew when the need for a party dish might arise and trust me, Mama was always ready.
Truth is y’all, those canned (also now available frozen ) beans are not really French green beans. They are wannabes. Haricots vert ~ real French beans ~ are slender and long and more delicate in flavor. For you gardeners who want the look of French green beans, there are shredders available so you can take your Kentucky Wonder or Blue Lake garden beans and shred them into thin slices. BUT they are still just French style green beans.
Comtesse de Chambord seeds/dried beans
A year or so ago, I got wind of a bean named Comtesse de Chambord ~ a French heirloom rice bean from the 19th Century. It is not one to be found in the markets because of its delicacy. We searched the Internet for a source for seeds ~ Canada? France? aargh! Our sweet daughter-in-law, the queen supreme of research, came to our rescue and located a collector right here in our area. She had a packet of seeds sent to us and a love story began. Those hard to find seeds have grown into highly productive plants. And oh so delicious.
Once the beans begin to develop, they should be harvested almost every day. We planted them in an elevated garden for easy picking. For the beans that we miss down in the foliage? We are letting them develop and dry ~ we will save a few to (hopefully) seed next season’s crop. A bonus? Comtesse de Chambord beans are also a dried bean. I’m thinking a winter ragout? On a recent trip home, I carried along beans and some seeds. The beans went into a salad for supper with my family. I have asked my dad to plant the seeds in his Florida winter garden to test the germination potential ~ we are counting on you, Daddy!
Comtesse de Chambord beans and Alaska nasturtiums planted in an elevated garden on our deck. Such a pretty planting and edible too!
Now y’all, have I considered stirring a can of mushroom soup into these delicate beans, topping them with canned fried onions and popping the dish into the oven? Not on your life! Or considered simmering up a pot of one of my favorite downhome comfort foods ~ Southern Green Beans with Bacon, Onion, and Potatoes ~ using these tender, sweet beans? Never!
But a simple blanching in salted water? Yes! Scrumptious. No butter needed ~ though a pat or two is mighty good. On a crudité plate? In Salad Nicoise? Oh my YES! A quick sauté in butter, a splash of white wine and a garnish of toasted nuts or crispy sautéed shallots? Yes siree, bobcat! AND tossed in this favorite green salad? Again and again throughout the season we have feasted. Comtesse de Chambord beans are tops in the garden and in the kitchen of the Sidewalk House. It’s the little things, n’es pas?
BABY MIXED GREENS with FRENCH GREEN BEANS
- 1/2 pound Comtesse de Chambord beans or haricots vert
- 1/2 pound mixed salad greens
- 1/2 pound fresh chevre
- 1 cup toasted walnut pieces
- 1 Tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup walnut oil
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Chop off the stems of the beans. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the beans. Boil for a very few minutes (2-4) until tender ~ just enough that the raw taste is gone but the beans have a bit of bite to them.
- Drain the beans in a colander and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. With a slotted spoon, transfer the beans from the ice water to a clean dish towel to drain. Pat dry.
- In a bowl, whisk together the shallots, mustard, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Add the walnut and olive oils in a stream, whisking. Continue to whisk until combined.
- Mix the beans, greens and enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the mixture. Crumble the chevre over the greens and sprinkle with the walnuts.
- Toss lightly, garnish with nasturtium blossoms if available, and serve.
You will serve this on chilled salad plates with chilled salad forks, oui?
ps: the salad dressing is way more than you need for one salad; it is delish on just about any green salad