Make this aromatic and satisfying beans and greens side dish and impress your guests with your pro kitchen skills.
Have you ever been asked to cook something that’s, you know, tasty but also has to hit a bunch of other criteria? Perhaps the dish needs to be vegetarian or you need to consider someone’s allergies. That’s how this dish was born, many a restaurant’s dinner service ago. I was asked to prepare someone’s favourite ingredients — beans and greens — but I didn’t want to mess with anything agonizingly deconstructed, swirled with strange smoky fogs. And definitely no wee and twee processed droplets. I just wanted to cook something delicious, nutritious, colourful — and fast. And here it is. This is a very quick dish to put together, but only if the beans are already blanched when you begin.
Without getting into the chemistry of beans and the arguments that surround the best way to cook them (and how to avoid the possibilities of a Blazing Saddles moment at the dinner table), I’m telling you to put them in a pot, cover them with cold water, salt the water to taste, put the pot on to boil, and stop boiling the beans when they are tender. That can be in as little as 10 minutes for some varietals, and over 60 minutes for others. But once the beans are tender, just drain them and keep them handy. They’ll hold for a couple of days in a covered container in the fridge, but don’t get too far ahead on them as they’ll pick up other nearby flavours. Fresh is always best.
Brad Long is a renowned Canadian chef and a pioneer in developing fresh, customized food programs that advocate ethical, local, organic, and sustainable practices from dirt to dish. His restaurant, Café Belong, is located at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, Ont. The Harvest Commission recently published his first book, Brad Long on Butter, which won Best Single Subject Cookbook in Canada at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
Break down the greens for this dish before cooking them, as no matter what type you choose, they should be chopped into pieces roughly the same size as the beans. Set them aside.
In a large skillet, frying pan, or shallow pot over low to medium heat, begin to sweat the shallots and garlic in the butter. Just swirl the pan gently every few minutes. Once the shallots and garlic have virtually dissolved into a milky mash, you’re done. They should be fairly clear and sweet (not brown and bitter).
Now that you have a beautiful base, increase the heat to medium-high, maybe a titch higher, then add the stems of the greens, if using. Sauté them for a few moments. Sautéing, the frantic high-heat cousin of sweating, involves forearm muscles constantly tossing the ingredients in the pan so they never sit in one place and cook unevenly.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine (or some of the stock or water). Deglazing is all about using the heat of the pan to quickly boil the liquid you’re adding, which, in turn, releases all the lovely bits of delicious, umami-pumped fun-grunge from the bottom of the pan and integrates them back into the whole.
Add the prepped leaves, blanched beans, and enough of the stock or water to just come to the tops of the beans. You can add as much liquid as the beans will absorb. Being careful not to turn the beans into mush, we’re just adding enough liquid to blanch the entire pan’s worth of greens. You’ll then let it reduce to a glaze but, damn, please don’t let the pan dry out. Once everything is in the pan, this
whole process won’t take longer than 2 or 3 minutes (5 minutes max, or it all turns to grey mush).
Stir in the parsley and dress the entire mass with the brown butter vinaigrette to finish the seasoning, add the nutty facet, and give the whole thing a lovely shine.
Brown Butter Vinaigrette
Place your diced shallots in a medium bowl and set it aside, at the ready.
Carefully brown the butter: Melt butter over high heat until it hits the magic temperature of 212°F — the boiling point. This is the first time the whole mass will rise up in the pot (use the tall pot!). Once the water has left the building all goes quiet again. The hot pot of fat with stuff floating on top will start to get nervous because the fat is getting hotter and hotter. And as the fat gets so hot that it actually deep-fries the milk proteins and all the other sugar-based bits, it will rise up a second time. The whole mass foams, the colour changes to golden as that stuff gets browned — a little science thing called the Maillard reaction — and then, at the exact same time, an absolutely wonderful, nostril-tantalizing aroma will permeate the air.
If you take it too far the butter will burn and turn black — not what you want here. You have to keep watch because it happens in seconds: As soon as the butter turns a nice nutty-brown colour, quickly take it off the fire.
Strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl of shallots. The hot butter will lightly cook the shallots, and in turn the shallots will infuse the brown butter with more flavour. Be careful: The brown butter is several hundred degrees hot, and once it hits the cold onions it will foam up. If you dump the butter in too quickly, it will foam up and over the top of the bowl. Set the bowl aside to cool for a little while (5 minutes or so).
Once the brown butter has cooled slightly, whisk in the mustard, honey, and vinegar and season with salt to taste. Whisk briefly, just until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. It won’t be emulsified and it won’t be homogenous — it will just be all mixed together, and that’s all you need. It is certainly possible that you may need to adjust the acid (vinegar) and the salt to find the best balance for you, so give it a taste, judge for yourself, and do what you need to do. Just be sure to stir or shake it before you dress something with it.
Store this vinaigrette in the fridge, but take note that the butter will solidify when cold. Just warm it gently or bring it to room temperature before using. And stir or firmly shake it.