Thursday, October 7, 2010


Sometimes it’s something other than the main dish which gets the ideas going for a meal, and the finding of this little two-pound bag of haricots vert at Sam’s was just such an inspiration. For my part, I could have just cooked the pan of beans and sat down happily with my plate.

But my Dining Companion is very fond of meat---all flavors, and our usual fare usually includes at least a portion for him. So one night this week, I got out the bag of ribs he’d cooked on Saturday and heated them gently in a pan of Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory sauce and some brown sugar---they were succulently tender, smoky and sweet and perfect for a cold night.

But first, I scrubbed two huge gorgeous potatoes, and got them going in the microwave.

I don’t care for a wet-skinned baked potato---having them come to the table in restaurants, all dripping when you peel off the foil---that’s a STEAMED potato, with none of the wonderful crispy salty skin. And microwaving them does not do the trick, either, but a good ten or fifteen minutes in the zapper, depending on size and number you’re cooking---will give those beauties such a head-start, steaming hot through and through and beginning to soften and cook from the inside---when even getting them HOT all through in a 350 oven takes a good thirty minutes. So I DO love a shortcut, if it comes out where I wanted to go. Just give them four or five little pokes in the top with the tip of a sharp knife before you set them into the microwave on a paper towel, and zap them for fifteen minutes or so.

Have a tiny bowl with a tablespoon or so of any kind of oil ready when they come out of the microwave (handle carefully with a potholder---they are VERRRRY hot) and brush them all over with the oil. Then salt one side with slightly-coarse sea salt, turn them over and salt the other side, put them in a small pan or on a cookie sheet, and pop them in a 350 oven for perhaps twenty minutes---the time it takes to get everything dished up and on the table, and pour the tea.
They come out GORGEOUSLY crispy and golden and salt-crusted---ready to burst open and drop in a knob of butter and whatever strikes your fancy. We had ours with a little sour cream and some of these tucked in:

The potatoes were extremely large, and Chris and I shared one, taking the other up to Caro---she’s parcelled hers out from the fridge a bit at a time over the week.

And the BEANS. They were already topped (as in top-and-tail, as we say in the South about snap beans), and were slender and delicately crisp. I think the tiny tails just add to the charm.

We were in the mood for some Asian-flavor beans (as in stir-fried, but these were so small that I just put them into the sauce to steam and toss for a few minutes.

Put ¼ cup of soy sauce into a bowl, stir in 2 t. sugar, a coupla cloves of minced, smushed garlic, and a T. of sesame oil.

Pour this into a heated pan which will hold all the beans, let it come to a sizzly-boil around the edges, and throw in all the beans, tossing with tongs to get them all coated in the sauce.

Cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, for this size, and longer, according to the size of your beans. Toss them in the sauce a couple of times while cooking. I usually start this dish by sautéing a big chopped onion to a transparent, brown-edged state, but since we were having those as a topping for the potatoes . . .

Turn off beans, and DO NOT PUT COVER BACK ON. Serve immediately on a platter, so they won’t continue to steam. And if some DO get past crisp into that limp, salty delicious state---those are worth picking out and keeping all for yourself.

The house was so full of good scents and flavors, with the crisp/salt of the beans and potato skin, the creamy interior of the soft, perfect potato, and the sweet tenderness of the ribs. Easy and quick and a perfect Fall supper on a cool night.

And just this morning, sweeping beside the stove, I came upon a small dark comma lying on the tile, a little dried escapee from my energetic tossing of the beans. Nice memory, and another trip to Sam's soon.


Maggie Ann said...

Thanks for the tips....I must try your short-cut for baked potatoes...and your soy sauce recipe. I'm all for short-cuts! I made my own won-ton soup today and it turned out great. The only drawback was the amount of sodium in the chicken broth. Here I am writing to you as if we'd met before, but thats the way it is in the blog world. Hope you don't mind an extra visitor to your blog today...

Kouign Aman said...

Yum! You make the mundane process of baking a spud seem magical.
We do the pre-nuking trick too. We'll try the salt-jacket as well, next time.

We have two taiwanese students living w us for the next two weeks, and I'm afeared to cook anything 'asian flavored'. Intimidated.
I usually cook those beans w a quick blanch (the only thing I ever blanch), then sautee in garlic, olive oil, small squeeze of lemon, and top w toasted pinenuts.

sparrowgrass said...

I cook my beans like that too, Miss Rachel, but I sub Thai sweet chili sauce for the sugar. It is hot and sweet and yummy.

For a main dish, I add some browned hamburger or ground pork, and serve it with jasmine rice.

Southern Lady said...

Rachel, your potato-baking hints are timely. I have never had any luck baking potatoes, but will definitely try your method this weekend. We're going to grill steaks, and nothing goes better with steaks than good baked potatoes! Your beans sound delicious, and I may just have to try those, too!

Maggie Ann said...

Good Morning Rachel, I have read many of Agnes S. Turnbull's novels...she is a gifted author isn't she. She was an author sort of 'passed down' on my Mother's side of the family. Her side of the family had women that loved needlework and It carried through to me also. Have you ever read 'Girl of the Limberlost' by Gene Stratton-Porter? A gem of a story if its your 'cup of tea'. Have a nice day, and thanks for the warm welcome to your blog.

racheld said...

Well, GOOD MORNING, Everyone!!!

I'm a lazy bird today---rose at ELEVEN O'Clock!!
Just couldn't go to bed last night, and when I turned off the TV and crept quietly toward our room, it was THREE a.m.

It's just so wonderful to sit down with that first lovely hot cup, set down by Chris as we talked, and then to open all these lovely comments---Oh. My.

And all of your methods---they're also our favorites, though I've cooked for three years now with a little one in mind, and even for us two, I didn't think to put that lovely little kick of the sweet chili or some sriracha into the bean sauce. Our fave Chinese place always had slices of fresh jalapeno all amongst the beans, and you had to pick around to be sure you didn't get a surprise.

And your addition of meat, Sparrow, would make it taste much like Caro's wonderful Mapo Tofu, which is my favorite breakfast dish in the world.

Maggie Ann---You are SO welcome to come in anytime!! I'm so glad you're an AST fan---your profiles library indicated that you and she would be friends.

And GSP is a local author---the locations of her books are quite close, and I've been meaning to take a drive over into "her country." That was one of my favorite childhood books.

I just looked at the map, and it's a nice little Sunday drive, and they're open for tours 1--5.

Chesapeake said...

Ah, Gene Stratton Porter! It was such a treat to be in Elkhart to have the motorhome repaired and find a dedication to this wonderful author at the courthouse. Will have to send you a picture of it, Rachel. And just before we skipped town to take Mother to her home church again I blanched and froze 4 quarts of beans, the only ones saved this summer because we just didn't have beans to speak of all season.

racheld said...

I think this October weather would be the perfect time to go tour the Limberlost. Wish Y'all were here, and we'd make a weekend of it. Would love to see the dedication.

The beans will do perfectly in this recipe---just thaw, and go right from there into the sauce.

Penny said...

Rachel, It all sounds wonderful. I agree about steamed baked potatoes. Love reading your blog.

Tonja said...

I'm sitting here on Saturday morning...craving baked potatoes and beans! I may have to head to Sam's before the day is through!

Kim Shook said...

Gorgeous meal! I am in TOTAL agreement with you on those slimy-nasty foil wrapped potatoes! The crisp, chewy skin is the babygirl's and my favorite part. But, I'd have to ask you to save me those almost burnt beans - I can't abide crisp beans! Give me the country cooked slippy, pillowy, pods popped out beans, please! :^)

racheld said...

It's always so lovely to hear from everyone!! And thank you for your kind comments---I love to hear how everyone is doing. I can't think of anyone who really likes those old too-earthy wet potatoes-in-foil!!

And if they've already slashed a cut in the top---I cannot bear to eat them---I got a little sliver of the foil between two metal fillings once, and it gave me a headache which lasted for DAYS.

And Kim, take another look at the finished platter of beans---they are tender all through, for they are smaller than any I've ever cooked that way before---just melty, though they kept both color and shape so beautifully. (But I'm always tempted to cook them all into limp little savory shreds, which I just LOVE on salads especially).


You'll LOVE those little beans, cooked ANY way---four more pounds residing in the fridge right now---1 pound will be made into a blanched, shocked, sweet-vinaigrette-anointed salad, with slivered onion and peppers and some rinsed Northerns and Pintos (I just don't like shucky-tough kidney beans in a salad).

Southern Lady said...

Rachel, just a note to let you know I tried baking some potatoes following your instructions and they were absolutely perfect! I'll never cook them any other way from now on. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

What a great inspiration you are! I make a lot of string beans and like you I leave the little tails on them. I must try your way of makeing them! And the baked potato tip...I am delighted with it. I have lamented many time about not wanting to wait for them to bake but not likeing the micro wave method either and now you have taken the time to show how to have "your cake and eat it too!" Thank you SO much!!

Kim Shook said...

If they are really tender, I'd love them - I love all the flavors that you put in them. They just looked so GREEN (insert laughing smiley right here!).