Nov 10, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Green Bean Bundles

I first encountered this recipe a few years ago; as we planned a holiday "progressive dinner" a friend recommended it as a side dish to accompany our main course. And what a recommendation it was - these green beans are now a Lea family tradition at the holidays. They look and taste "fussy" but they really aren't much work to assemble, and can be made ahead, then baked at the last minute.

I wholeheartedly recommend using only fresh green beans. Frozen whole green beans would be a second choice. Even though some recipes suggest using canned green beans, I would prepare a different green bean dish if canned beans were the only choice.  This recipe is worth the added effort and expense to track down good crisp, plump fresh beans.

  Green Bean Bundles

1 pound fresh green beans, washed and ends snapped off
8 slices bacon (see note below)
1/8 cup brown sugar
coarse grind pepper

Blanch beans by immersing in boiling water for 2-3 minutes then immediately plunge in ice water to stop the cooking.

Note: I use thick-slice bacon, and I like to pre-cook it (skillet or microwave) for a few minutes to cut down on the baking time.  If you use thinner bacon, you may not need to do this added step.

Divide cooled beans into 8 even groups.  (You can eyeball it or count them - I've done it both ways.) Wrap a slice of bacon around each bundle and secure with a toothpick.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and pepper.  Place in 350 oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until bacon is fully cooked.  Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings

Some recipes call for adding mustard (dry or prepared) to the toppings and/or drizzling with melted butter.  I haven't found either is necessary (the bacon provides plenty of fat and the sweet/salty pairing of bacon and brown sugar are marvelous on their own.  But you can always jazz 'em up to suit your tastebuds.  And if you're keeping them in a holding pattern - like on a buffet line - a little butter might keep the beans moist.)  

Bonus for busy cooks:  once you've assembled the bundles, they can be refrigerated for a day before baking - just add a few minutes to the cook time to compensate for them being cold when you start.

Happy dining!