The Ultimate Way To Give Green Beans A Tasty Char

Don't sleep on green beans, y'all. They're cheap, delicious, versatile as heck, and the canned form should be regarded as a pantry staple. We've long been a big fan of charred (or blistered) green beans for their deeply delicious, nutty flavor. Now, there are a few ways to achieve this result. While we're obsessed with the smoky magnificence that is a plate of grilled green beans, unless you're firing up the grill for several other reasons (possibly meal prep for the week), it's hardly worth the time and effort. Instead, we think the easiest, quickest, and most delicious way to put a char on some fresh green beans is in a hot skillet with butter or oil that's already been used to lightly sauté shallots and garlic.

Sure, you can use plain oil, but flavored oil is the secret weapon of good cooking. But doesn't the appearance of additional ingredients like shallots and garlic limit what kinds of dishes you can make with the charred green beans? Hardly. Using olive oil and adding anchovies at the end gives you a vegetal variation on Provençal's bagna càuda. Substituting ginger for shallots will create the base of the deliriously good Sichuan dish gan bian si ji dou, or dry-fried green beans. Lastly, simply stirring the shallots and garlic back into the charred beans and seasoning with salt and pepper will give you a tasty side dish.

The trick to browning your green beans

Browning — whether with proteins through the Maillard Reaction or with vegetables through a chemical process known as pyrolysis — is really all about the process of caramelizing sugars. Not only do green beans have natural sugars (hence their ability to char), shallots and garlic have them in spades, and will release them as they're stirred in hot oil. The reason you see many recipes call for sautéing onions and garlic first is to take advantage of those sugars to flavor the rest of the ingredients going into the pan. These are the flavors that will inform your green beans, and the added sugars which will enhance the char.

You can use any kind of oil you'd like (tailor it to your particular dish). Just remember that fat is flavor. Since you're not stir-frying, olive oil and butter would be great choices. The only trick is not to sauté the shallots and garlic for too long — really just until they start to brown.