As far back as I can remember, green beans were high on my “yuck” list. Yucky green beans took either of two forms. First was boiled: even if they started out fresh (canned and frozen were more usual), by the time they hit the table they’d had all the life boiled out of them and were wimpy, soggy, and highly unappetizing. The other way was the green bean casserole that every American and Canadian has seen at countless picnics and potluck dinners: you know, the kind made with cream of mushroom soup and topped with French’s canned onion rings. Even the casserole couldn’t disguise the sogginess of the beans, and of course as a kid mushrooms and onions were also high on my “yuck” list, making the problem worse.
It wasn’t until I reached my mid-30s (honestly) that I began to discover that green beans could be heated in such a way that they remained crisp, and that when so prepared, were actually quite tasty. And so I’d have them in the occasional stir-fry or sometimes raw on a salad. They’d disappeared from my “yuck” list but I still didn’t have them very often.
That all changed with the November, 2005 issue of Cook’s Illustrated, which somehow managed to devote a full two-page spread to what must be the world’s simplest green bean recipe. This dish is so amazingly delicious that we generally have it at least once a week, and even French fries have got nothing on these beans. They’re so good that they’re now near the top of my “Yum” list.
It’s really so simple that it’s not even worth putting in recipe form. You take some fresh (must be fresh!) green beans and snap off the stem ends. Toss the beans lightly with olive oil and a little salt. Put them on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake at 450°F/230°C for 10 minutes. Swish them around a bit, trying to turn over as many as you can, and back in the oven for another 10–12. Eat.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention any quantities: it’s a highly adaptable and forgiving recipe. (And if you put on too little salt, you can always add more later.) The foil is key, though: for one thing, it keeps your baking sheet from getting gunked up with oil; for another, the shiny surface helps the beans get crisp without burning (at least not much—a little black is actually good).
By the way…personally, I still feel that the only valid food colors in a Thanksgiving dinner are shades of white, yellow, orange, red, and brown. However, if you must cook something green on Thanksgiving and your family isn’t pushing for the green bean casserole, consider giving these beans a try.