Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Spicy Charred Green Beans with Scallions

Spicy Charred Green Beans with Scallions
This is a fab dish and is especially useful when the green beans in the fridge are past their prime. Plus it's spicy and vegetable-y and just really eatable. I got the recipe from Cook's Illustrated originally but I've tweaked it a bit and added sliced cooked sausage to it to make it a one-pot meal.

The secret - the cast iron pot (I have an old Lodge that I've seasoned myself). It gets hot enough to char the beans without overcooking them, and it gives them a great flavor. I've never cooked this dish in anything other than my cast iron; I doubt the non-stick could get hot enough to cook the beans without turning them into mush, and I bet the beans and especially the fragile scallions would stick to a standard non-coated frying pan.

I love, love, love my cast iron pot. Mark Bittman, esteemed food writer, recently extolled the virtues of cast iron in one of his recent columns in the New York Times. My good husband looks askance at it everytime I pull it out because it does in fact require a little maintenance to keep it so useful and there are a few rules of engagement. Mostly, keep tomatoes and vinegary sauces out of it, as the acid eats through the seasoning (a small amount won't hurt it), and don't let it stay wet or it will rust (it is just pig iron, after all). After cooking in it, I rinse it out with very hot water, then scrub it with a heavy wooden-headed metal brush (used only for this purpose). I put a little oil in it, put it over low heat and let it sit for five minutes. I lightly rub it out with a paper towel and it's ready for its next job. It cooks so nicely and adds such great flavor to just about anything.

A warning - pets love the seasoning of cast iron. I keep mine on the open bottom shelf of our butcher block island, and I have to keep a lid on it or my cat will lick the finish right off the pan, making little unseasoned patches in the pot. It won't hurt him - it's just a little iron and a little fat - but those naked patches of cast iron equate to sticky spots when cooking.


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