Thanksgiving Side Dish
Green beans are one of the most popular side dishes at Thanksgiving – they are easy to prepare and pretty universally liked (as opposed to Brussels sprouts!). But why just put a bowl of green beans on the table when you could dress them up and put out a dish of green beans, pearl onions and bacon instead. (not a question)
How to Peel Pearl or Cipollini Onions
You could use pearl onions or cipollini onions for this recipe. Both are smaller and milder than regular onions, but they differ in size and shape from each other: pearl onions are smaller and round, where cipollini onions are a little larger and flat in shape. I find cipollini onions easier to peel than pearl onions, but the skins of both types of onion are much easier to remove if you blanch the onions in boiling water first. Trim off part of the stem end and then submerge the onions in boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the onions from the water and when cool enough to handle, peel away their skins. With round pearl onions, you can pinch the onion at the root end and it should pop out of its skin. Cipollini onions will require a little more handling, but because they are a little larger, the work is not as finicky and you’ll have fewer onions to peel. If your cipollini onions are larger than a polite mouthful, cut them into halves or quarters. Both types of onions come in different colors – white, yellow and purple. I think the purple is a beautiful contrast to the green beans, but any color will do.
How to Trim Green Beans
Some people trim off both ends of green beans, but I only trim the stem end where it gets a little tougher than the rest of the bean. You can snap this end of the green bean off with your fingers, or line up a few green beans at a time and trim that stem end away with a knife.
How to Blanch Green Beans
Blanching the green beans in boiling water makes sautéing them a breeze. It allows the bean to plump up a little and partially cooks the bean so that your sautéing time is significantly reduced. Bring about 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil and plunge the green beans into the pot. Let the beans cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on how thick the beans are, and then immediately transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water. This will shock the beans and stop the cooking process. It helps to keep the beans a nice bright green color and ensures they don’t over-cook.
Sautéed Green Beans
You’ll start this recipe by crisping up and rendering the fat from the bacon. Then, sauté the peeled onions until they soften and start to brown just a little. This will take roughly 20 minutes or so and covering the pan with a lid for the second half of cooking really helps the onions soften. Then, when you’re ready to finish the dish, add the green beans and sauté along with the onions. Just five minutes or so should be enough to let all the flavors blend and to finish cooking the green beans through. Add the crispy bacon back to the mix, drizzle on a little white balsamic vinegar and you’re done. You’ve dressed those green beans up nicely!
Make Ahead Suggestions
If you are serving this dish for Thanksgiving or another occasion, it’s nice to make it ahead of time as much as possible. To do that, cook the bacon and onions and then turn take them off the heat. Blanch an shock the green beans and set them aside. Five or ten minutes before you are ready to serve, turn the heat back on the onions for a minute or two, add the green beans and sauté until heated through and fully cooked. Drizzle the white balsamic vinegar at the end and you’re ready for the table.