Blister Your Green Beans For A Richer, More Flavorful Side Dish

blistered green beans
blistered green beans - Elena Graham/Shutterstock

When cooking fresh green beans, most people probably think of blanching them in boiling, salted water and not much else. And this is fine. Green beans do wonderfully well when par-cooked to crunchy perfection for an almandine or baked to sublime softness in a casserole. But there's another way of preparing this old stand-by that will, quite literally, open up new worlds of flavor: Blistering green beans brings out hitherto unknown textures and a deep nuttiness unique to the process.

You only need two things to accomplish this simple task: hot oil and patience. Put your trimmed, washed, and dried green beans in a skillet or wok with about a quarter cup of hot oil over medium-high heat. We highly recommend patting the beans with paper towels until thoroughly dry -- hot oil splatters are no fun -- as well as using an oil with a high smoke point (extra virgin olive oil is not cut out for this kind of high-heat application). Having said that, doing it low and slow will achieve the same results; just know that caramelizing green beans in butter can take upwards of an hour.

Read more: 27 Tips You Need When Cooking With Vegetables

Meet Your New Friend Pyrolysis

Sichuan green beans
Sichuan green beans - from my point of view/Shutterstock

You might have heard of the Maillard Reaction, that wonderful (and slightly mysterious) process by which proteins turn brown and delicious. Something similar happens to sugar when it caramelizes through a chemical process known as pyrolysis. Anyone who's made caramel or hard candy knows this well: When subjected to sustained heat, sugars darken and assume a nutty flavor -- the delicious by-products of sugar molecules breaking down. Fruits and vegetables that contain sugar in the form of carbohydrates will also caramelize, with similar results: They'll darken, shrivel, and blister, yielding an irresistibly deep and earthy sweetness.

What kind of dishes can you make with blistered green beans? You can salt them and eat them right away, or combine them with garlic, red pepper flakes, and capers. You might want to try making the classic Sichuan dish gan bian si ji dou: Caramelized green beans combined with Sichuan peppers, garlic, ginger, and ground pork as well as soy sauce and cooking wine. These are only two of many possible blistered green bean expressions.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.