Potatoes or Green Beans?

23 07 2009

Does this ever happen to you?  You’re going through your workday, thinking about dinner, picturing the oven fried fish and homemade tartar sauce you have planned, but when it comes to the side dish, you’re stumped.  On one hand, you have some lovely little haricots verts rapidly going south in the fridge, and on the other, you have some freshly dug new potatoes doing the same in the cupboard.  A quick green bean sauté sounds easy and virtuous, but maybe steamed potatoes in an herby vinaigrette would be better.  You remember that there are no fresh herbs in your kitchen, but now you really want those potatoes.  It would really be a shame to see those green beans go to waste.  Potatoes or green beans?  Green beans or potatoes?

What if...?

So there I was, with the great potatoes-or-green beans debate waging on in my head, when lunchtime rolls around.  After the 10 minutes it takes me to eat my sandwich, I have the better part of an hour to kill.  I decide to check my email on my phone (ah, the wonders of technology!) and lo and behold, a friend has sent me a link for a peach pie recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I’m sure it was mouthwatering, but what immediately caught my attention was the link at the top of the page to the previous recipe, entitled, “arugula, potato and green bean salad.”  Wait!  Of course!  I can use both!  Why didn’t I think of that before?  I loved the idea of a yogurt-based dressing – it sounded so fresh and healthy (which is good, seeing as I’m still struggling a bit with that vacation weight), as well as creamy, tangy, and malleable to my palate’s desires.  And what my palate desired was tarragon.  I remembered it working so well with the yogurt in my French coleslaw recipe, and fortunately, I almost always have tarragon vinegarin the cupboard.  Yay!  With some shallots, Dijon mustard, and hazelnut oil, maybe some toasted almonds… can you tell I was getting excited?  After work I hurried home to get cooking. 

It looks like mayo, but brother, it ain't mayo.

The resulting salad was just what I was looking for.  I am absolutely making this one again.  Repeatedly.

French Potato and Green Bean Salad 

Never again succumb to the starch-or-vegetable dilemma!  This salad marries them beautifully.  The yogurty dressing looks rich, but tastes light – an excellent summer side dish.  As for the title, something about the combination of tarragon and nuts strikes me as so French.

For the dressing:

125 g / 4½ oz. plain yogurt
1 medium shallot, minced
2 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. hazelnut oil

  1. Combine the yogurt, shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk in the oil and season to taste.

For the salad:

200 g / 7 oz. haricots verts (or thin green beans), washed and broken in half if long
360 g / 13 oz. small, waxy potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into rounds 65 mm / ¼” thick
50 g / ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Place the green beans in a strainer or pasta insert and cook 2-3 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender.  Remove them from the pot and give them a quick rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain.  (You may need to do this in two batches if your strainer is small like mine.)
  2. Add the potatoes to the pot, return to a boil, and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.  (No need to save the water this time.)
  3. Transfer the hot potatoes to a salad bowl and toss with the green beans and the dressing.  Allow the flavors to meld for at least 20 minutes.  Just before serving, sprinkle in the almonds and stir to distribute.  Serve at room temperature.

Serves 3 as a side dish.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


Another Braised Chicken Dish

5 06 2008

Those who know me know I love a good hearty braise.  I have written about braising on this blog on at least five separate occasions.  It is one of those fundamental cooking techniques wherein you take something cheap and make it taste like a million bucks.  I like to think that I have mastered it to the point where I can mess around with it and know that I’m still going to get good results.  Plus, there are almost always leftovers.  Never a bad thing, in my book.

At the market on Sunday (a glorious sunny morning) I bought some girolles with no set plan for them.  As we wandered along, discussing what we had in the fridge at home (tarragon), and what to buy to complement those things, Nick came up with something that sounded delicious: braised chicken with tarragon and girolles.  I thought that I could work in the fennel bulb I knew was lurking in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, and agreed to the dish, despite the not-at-all-braise-worthy weather.  Since it was so nice out, we decided to put that one off and bought some excellent Norwegian salmon for dinner that night.

Later that afternoon, the sky clouded over and rain began to fall.  Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go to a butcher on Monday, Nick and I went up the street to a butcher shop we had never visited before.  The chickens roasting in the rotisserie outside were some of the best I’ve seen, so we went in to get some cuisses de poulet.  Literally “chicken thighs,” these are inevitably whole chicken leg quarters.  Not a problem, just a bit unwieldy.  At 2 euros a kilo, though, who’s complaining?

So Monday night, which was just as dismal as Sunday afternoon, I began my Spring-y chicken braise.  First step: brown the skin.

Chicken leg quarters, snug and cozy in the Dutch oven

Next step: get the meat out of there to make room for the vegetables.  In this case, diced fennel and onion.  Season with salt and pepper.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to pick up all the deliciousness residing there.  While the vegetables cook, remove the skin from the chicken.  (This is much easier when you’re just working with thighs.)  It occurred to me at this point that a bit of Dijon mustard would go really well with everything else in the dish, so I plopped in a spoonful of mustard and stirred to make sure it wasn’t going t be in one big lump.  And then it’s time to add the liquid.  I have run out of chicken stock, so I used half water and half white wine, and another good pinch of salt.  Nestle the meat in with the vegetables and liquid, and bring the whole thing up to a simmer.

Tarragon Chicken Braise - before

I also stuffed a couple sprigs of fresh tarragon in there – let’s not forget the inspiration for the dish.  Once it’s simmering, reduce the heat (for me, this means moving the pot to a completely different burner, but that’s my quirky stove), slap the lid on the pot, and leave it alone for an hour and a half or so.  (Longer if you’re braising beef or lamb – yes, it does require a little planning ahead.)

Meanwhile, for this particular braise, I began preparing the mushrooms.  You didn’t forget about those, did you?  Maybe a picture will help:

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