Here in Spain, in late September, we are almost at the end of the green bean season. Luckily, we were just in time to get the last pickings from a friend’s garden from his pueblo – small village – just south of Logroño. Since I had made the classic Spanish recipe for judías verdes con patata – Green beans with potatoes – just the week before, using a great recipe by one of my favorite Spanish chefs, Karlos Argiñano, I was looking for a way to spice up this recipe while also taking advantage of these lovely green beans that were so thoughtfully picked for us. So this was the experiment. And let me just tell you, it turned out delicious, even better than the classic. Well…at least I think so! :)
This recipe for green beans & Spanish jamón will serve 4 people easily for a first course dish. If you have a hungry bunch just throw in an extra potato or two. That always satisfies the masses!
1 lb of fresh green beans (cleaned)
1 large potato (peeled and cubed in 1 inch cubes)
3-4 cups of water or until the potato/bean mixture is 2/3 covered
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion (finely diced)
2 cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
4 oz of jamón serrano, Italian prosciutto, or if you’re really in a bind, I suppose regular ham will do… (Spanish jamón, if not the most important thing produced in Spain, definitely the most tasty! We’ve looked high and low to find this delicious delicacy outside of Spain, but it’s practically impossible. So, best of luck! If you’d like, take a little lesson in Spanish jamón here.)
Cleaning the green beans:
The green beans in Spain are quite different looking compared to the ones I was used to in the States. First of all, they are very large, and secondly, they are exceptionally flat. I also found out that they have little hilos – strings – on each side of the green bean and you have to remove them. It’s not a difficult job, but it does take a little bit of time, depending on how many beans you’re cleaning. In the picture below you can see how it’s done. First take the bean and start from the top, use a potato peeler to quickly remove just about a centimeter off of each side.
I usually set up a little green bean peeling station to get everything done at once, as you can see from the picture above. Once you have the sides cut and the strings gone, break the ends off with your finger (about 1/2 inch), then quickly break the beans into 2-3 inch long pieces, and give them a quick rinse.
Boil the beans & potatoes:
In a medium-sized pot, boil potatoes, green beans, 1 bay leaf, a pinch or two of salt, and 3-4 cups of water, or until the mixture is at least 2/3 covered. Cook on high heat with the lid slightly covering the pot for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. (Try not to leave out the bay leaf if you can, it really adds to the flavor of the mixture.) When the potatoes are soft, drain the liquid using a colander, remove bay leaf, and set aside.
On the stove:
In a medium-sized pan (take into account that later you will be adding the beans and potatoes to the same pan), add the olive oil and diced onions. Cook on medium-high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly golden in color. Add the garlic and bring the heat down a bit, as to not burn the garlic, for another 2-3 minutes. Keep on low heat while quickly cooking up the jamón.
The jamón should be thinly sliced and cut into 1 inch small pieces. In small pan, add jamón or other type of ham, and cook on medium-high heat for just 30 seconds to a minute. Just enough so it gets a little crunchy. Turn off heat and let sit for a minute or two. (Is that not just a mouthwatering picture below?! If you’ve ever tried Spanish jamón serrano, you know what I mean!) :)
Add the ham to the onion and garlic mixture, heat for another 2-3 minutes on medium heat and then add the drained beans and potatoes to the mix. Let simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes to ensure that the veggies are warmed back up. Serve and enjoy!
There you have it, green beans with a little Spanish twist! I was even thinking it might be a great Thanksgiving treat for all of you back in the States!