Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Different Green Bean Dish: Judías Verdes Rehogadas con Jamón

Delicioso!I'm nuts about Christmas. I blame it in part on the fact that my dad's a Christmas tree farmer. Whatever the reason, I know this for sure: I'm just giddy with excitement because Christmas Eve is just two days away!!!

If you're looking to change up your holiday side dishes, ditch the green bean casserole with the can of fried onion whatnots on top. Try instead this recipe from Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain :
Judías Verdes Rehogadas con Jamón
(Green Beans Sautéed with Cured Ham)

Whenever we stay in Niserias in Asturias (as we often do, since my husband loves to trout-fish in the cares River) we dine at Casa Julián (see p. 113), where co-owner and cook Vincentina produces simple Asturian fare with an expert hand. My favorite first course is her sautéed green beans, seasoned with garlic and generously sprinkled with mountain ham.

Serves 4

1/2 small onion
1 1/2 pounds broad green beans, ends snapped off
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
2 ounces Spanish mountain cured ham or prosciutto, in small cubes or thin squares (about 1/4 cup)
Freshly ground pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the onion and green beans, return to a boil, then cook uncovered at a slow boil for about 20 minutes, or until cooked as desired. Discard the onion and drain the green beans in a colander. Refresh with cold water.

In a skillet, heat the oil with the garlic, pressing the garlic with the back of a wooden spoon to release its flavor, until the garlic is golden on both sides. Add the beans and the ham, season with salt and pepper, and sautée, stirring, over a medium flame, until the beans are hot.
If I read this recipe for the first time, I would say "Hell, no!" Then, I'd walk away, shaking my head. "Cook beans for more than 20 minutes? They'll be mush!" I'd laugh, disbelieving. "Boil the onion?!?!?! That onion should be diced and fried with the garlic!"

I'd have a wealth of culinary tradition and experience behind me.

I'd also be wrong.

Judías Verdes Rehogadas con Jamón, or Green Beans with Ham, photo by Wendy A F G Stengel, some rights reserved

This was the first course in our last meal in Spain. We'd made it to Santiago, we'd been to Mass, we'd waited in line for hours to get our credentials, and we had a celebratory meal and final communion for our pilgrimage group.

And this was damned tasty.

I'm not a cook-it-'til-it's-dead girl when it comes to vegetables. I'm really not. But, dang, these beans taste good after a long slow simmer with ham.

Need I say everything was local? Everything? Was local.

People grow their own everything.

Garden in Spain, photo by Wendy A F G Stengel, some rights reserved

Their own beans.

Backyard pig in Spain, photo by Wendy A F G Stengel, some rights reserved

Their own ham.

I know the pig's out of focus (and that it's not ham ... yet); I heard it grunting on the other side of a garden wall, held my camera up high, and sort of just hoped I'd get a picture of whatever was making the sound. So, out of focus or no, I love this picture of the ham-to-be.

But I digress!

I rather thought I might.

Point being: think outside the can of cream of whatever and tinned questionable crispy onionesque casserole topping, and bring a bit northern Spain to Christmas this year.

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