Now that my television and I are happily reunited, I blitzed through a "Top Chef" marathon and am completely caught up to the current episode. Some great talent this season, and of course I'm particularly proud of Jennifer from 10 Arts here in Philly, who is tearing. it. up. Go Jen!
The show is set in Vegas this season, and they're doing a lot with that theme, throwing around poker chips and dice and showgirls, and yes, it's cheesy, but it's also fun. And it led to a very interesting Quickfire, where the chefs rolled dice to determine the number of ingredients they'd be using in their dish. (Oil, salt, and pepper were free.)
Now, initially I thought they'd all want to roll high numbers, because it seemed like they were rolling for a maximum number. But no. When the chefs started rolling nines and tens and complaining about it, the real challenge became clear: they were rolling for an exact number. No more, no less.
No one rolled a two, but it got me thinking: how few ingredients is too few? Could I make something with two ingredients, plus salt and pepper? Of course I could. Two is enough, as long as one of them is bacon.
This is how the McHenrys do green beans. Yes, I see the whole appeal of the tender-crisp cooking style for vegetables, where you let the vegetable express itself. I do that sometimes. Sometimes? I quash the vegetable's freedom of expression with the smoky richness of bacon and cook the beans themselves to army green.
And it is SO good.
Cut three or four slices of bacon in small pieces and brown in the bottom of a heavy pot. Snap the green beans (about two pounds will do) into one-inch lengths and rinse. The water that clings to the beans should be enough, but have a little extra on hand just in case. When the bacon is brown and the fat is rendered out, toss the beans in, stir it up, slap the lid on, and cook for about an hour over very low heat, stirring occasionally. If it gets too dry add that extra water, but really, it's pretty Zen.
I've tried fancying this up with pancetta instead of bacon, or adding herbs like thyme. Don't do that. That's not what these beans are about.
Beans. Bacon. Salt and pepper. Two plus two.