This recipe for Parmesan green beans with nutty toasted panko and fried shallots is a fresh spin on the flavors of the classic casserole and makes for a celebratory side.
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Green beans can be hard to find. Not in the store or market, but on the actual vine. They are well camouflaged; hard to make out in a sea of green leaves and vines.
My first time growing green beans on my roof deck in Brooklyn, I was sure nothing was happening. A quick glance revealed only big leaves and woody vines. One day, I went peeking around in the green bean plants and boom, I had actual green beans! Years later, my favorite CSA described the process of green bean picking as getting visually acclimated. It takes time to see the beans amid the stems and leaves that obscure them.
There’s a metaphor here somewhere about hidden abundance or just taking the time to see all you have. A good reminder for me as I careen through an unexpected stretch of hectic summer days to stop and find the green beans. Not quite the same as smelling roses, but whatever.
Once the green beans have revealed themselves to you, you’ll need to cook them. I mean, you don’t have to cook them, but they’re good that way.
Parmesan Green Beans
This recipe for Parmesan green beans with fried shallots is celebratory and so delicious. Topped with nutty Parmesan panko and crisp fried shallots, these green beans have show-off vibes even if they’re pretty simple to make. The basic sautéed green beans can also be a base for all kinds of sautéed green beans. The idea is to cook them perfectly in a neutral oil, and then add whatever flavors and textures you’d like right at the end.
Perfectly Cooked Green Beans
How should you cook your green beans? There’s a kind of righteousness that I once subscribed to that dictates the best vegetables are barely cooked and super vibrant. Now, older and wiser, I’m here to make a plea for well-cooked green beans. Green and vibrant, yes. A little bit of snap, of course. But there is pleasure in supple beans, cooked through and imbued with the fat, smoke, and salt of a hot skillet.
This is best accomplished by sautéing your beans in a hot skillet over medium heat (or just a smidge past medium). The idea is to have a few wafts of smoke, but not full-on smoke billowing from the pan. Use plenty of oil, ideally one suited to higher temperatures. I like sunflower seed oil for this purpose. Arrange the beans in a single layer, and then nudge them around until they’ve relaxed a bit and are a little charred all over. Once you’ve achieved a perfectly cooked bean, you can add flavor.
At the end of cook time, toss in garlic, pepper flakes, lemon zest, sesame seeds or oil, or soy sauce. Add whatever sounds good in the moment. Here, I went with garlic, pepper flakes, and Parmesan added right at the end, and with just enough time in the pan to sizzle and stick to the beans.
Once the beans are cooked, quickly arrange them on a platter, top with toasted Parmesan panko and frizzled shallots, and serve.
- 10 ounces green beans (about 1 dry pint), stem ends trimmed
- 4 tablespoons sunflower seed or other heat tolerant oil, divided
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
- Red pepper flakes
- 2 shallots (about 1/2 cup), peeled and sliced 1/16-inch thick
- 1/2 cup sunflower seed or other heat tolerant oil
Wash and pat the green beans dry. Trim the stem ends with a knife or by snapping them off.
To make the fried shallots, combine the sliced shallots and oil in a small frying pan and set over medium heat (the idea here is to start the ingredients in a cold skillet). Set out a mesh strainer and a heat-proof bowl. As oil heats, turn and separate the shallots with a fork, stirring constantly. Shallots with start to sizzle and slowly turn golden. Once the edges start to darken, keep a close eye. Pull from heat just a shallots turn a uniform golden hue (this happens really fast!). Total cook time will be about 8 - 11 minutes. Working quickly, carefully strain shallots with the mesh strainer and give it a few shakes, then tip shallots out onto a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt, and let cool.
To make the green beans, set a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil and the panko. Cook, stirring continually, until panko turns a pale golden hue (2 - 3 minutes). Quickly add a pinch each salt and black pepper, and 1/4 cup Parmesan, cooking just until it sizzles and melts a bit (about 1 minute). Scrape into a bowl. Let the skillet cool a bit and wipe it clean.
Set the same skillet over medium heat; let it get nice and hot. Add 1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil, and then the green beans. Nudge green beans as they cook, working them into a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Adjust heat as needed – the pan should be hot with just a little smoke. Continue cooking and nudging until green beans are tender and seared on all sides, about 8 minutes total. In the last minute, toss green beans with garlic, pepper flakes, black pepper, and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, and cook for 1 minute. The cheese will sizzle and melt just a bit as it cooks.
Quickly remove green beans and any cheese from the pan, arrange on a platter, and top with Parmesan panko and fried shallots. Serve immediately. (If needed, the dish can be kept in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes or so, but it's best served right away.)