My good friend and fellow food writer Meredith Smith is from Kentucky, where braised greasy beans (yes, that’s what the bean variety is called) are a way of life. True greasy bean pods have thick strings and big beans inside that take about an hour to soften properly. They’re also impossible to find round my parts. Fortunately, braised string beans capture plenty of that slow-cooked beany flavor, and they’re available pretty much anywhere. (Please don’t tell Meredith I’m using regular string beans. She’ll kill me.)
If anyone ever tries to tell you that green beans absolutely must be perfectly al dente and snappy to be worth eating, just shove a handful of these in their mouth and they’ll clam right up.
NOTE: For best results, use slab bacon, but sliced bacon can be used in its place: Cut the bacon crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips.
SERVES 4 TO 6
8 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1-by-½-inch-thick lardons
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
1½ pounds string beans, ends trimmed
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the bacon and oil in a large saucepan, add ½ cup water, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cook until the water is evaporated and the bacon is crisp and well rendered, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, and the sugar, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are completely soft and cooked through, about 1 hour; add water as necessary if the pan begins to dry out and the beans start to sizzle.
3. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.