Published November 1, 1996.
Boil or braise depending on the beans' age and toughness.
Although a summer crop, green beans grown in warm climates are available in U.S. markets year-round. While other vegetables--such as Brussels sprouts--are often not exactly crowd pleasers, green beans are generally welcomed by all. The trick is to figure out how to cook them.
In the past, we have prepared green beans two ways--cook and then add flavor, or flavor and cook simultaneously. After researching recipes in dozens of cookbooks, we found that this distinction was fairly uniform. Our goal was to test the variables and devise two master techniques for cooking green beans.
With the first technique--cooking then flavoring--we came to prefer boiling over steaming. It takes less time, and the beans cook more evenly. After boiling and prompt draining, the beans can be "dressed" (drizzled with a flavorful oil or vinaigrette) or quickly sautéed (with onions that have been browned in bacon fat, for example). The second method for preparing green beans--braising--is slower than the first but allows the beans to absorb flavors as they cook. Tomatoes, cream, or stock can be used as a braising liquid. In general, really fresh beans are best boiled and seasoned. But older, tougher beans benefit from slow cooking in a covered pan. The beans will lose some color, but they pick up wonderful flavors from the braising medium.list of recipes