Monday, July 1, 2013

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Green Beans

Okay, so although I tend to *love* raw veggies, I'm not usually a fan of cooked or canned ones. In the "old" movie "War Games" with Mathew Broderick, his mom serves raw corn because 'you can taste the vitamins!" and his dad complains he'll take vitamin pills. I'm with the mom - dip those babies in some scalding water just long enough to pop the starches into sugar, and I'm ready for the butter!! There are a few exceptions.

Broccoli is probably one of my few exceptions, as I like it lightly steamed (not mushy) but not so much raw - well, not the tops at least. LOVE the stems raw. Go figure. It's just too much like eating lace to eat the tops. Steam them and add some cheese sauce or butter and salt and pepper though, I'll eat a whole big pot by myself. Yum!

Anyway, when I was growing up, my grandparents lived outside of Portland, OR on a farm, and mom and I lived "in town." On weekends we'd go out to the country, and I did things like a farm girl, which kept me from being totally citified, for which I am eternally grateful. I learned to sew, quilt and can my own foods. I still remember *most* of it 30+ years later, although it might take a bit of practice again.

I love fresh green beans, but they take a while to cook, and they're expensive as all get out to buy. And that's just in season. So over time I've had to get used to eating frozen ones, or buying canned. They go in that order too (canned - good, frozen - better, fresh - best.) But I've learned ways to make canned green beans taste more interesting.

Most people know the old trick of a can of cream of mushroom soup over the green beans. That used to be the only way I really liked them. My sister Karen used to make them with Nutmeg of all things, and they weren't bad, but still not something I was crazy over. Then I started tinkering.

Now you can ask my kids, Corn isn't a vegetable. It's a grain, a starch, and therefore the old fashioned "meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy and canned corn" is a heart attack waiting to happen. There's NO VEGGIES THERE!!! None. Add some cottage cheese with sliced tomatoes on the side, I'll consider it (although tomatoes aren't a vegetable either, really, they're a fruit.) But I digress.

I tend away from canned corn as a veggie on the side, for reasons given in the last paragraph. But if you live on food stamps and/or food banks, you get a LOT of three things: Canned Corn, Canned Pork & Beans and Canned Green Beans. So you learn to cook them. I'll list Hobo Stew for y'all one of these days. I have a bad habit of draining a can of canned corn and dropping it in poor man's tuna casserole. So that leaves the green beans.

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Green Beans

1/2 a yellow onion - baseball sized, diced up in little pieces ("little" is up to your discretion...)
3 tablespoons (or so) of REAL butter (don't eat margarine, it's horrible for you.)
1/6th of a "pat" of the "season skillet" things, Garlic and Herb flavor (optional)
2 cans of green beans - I like cut, not french cut, but use what you have
1/2 cup or so of bacon bits - I use the fake vegan ones from emergency foods, but they're pretty much like "bac-os" or you could use real bacon bits, or even better, cut up some real bacon and fry it up real nice and crisp but not burnt! (if you do that, use the bacon grease and forget the butter, or use half bacon fat half butter. All depends on taste. Play around a little and find what you like.)

This recipe is really quick and easy. The hardest part is cooking the onions.
Take a pot that  you have a lid for, turn burner up on medium high, and melt the butter/bacon fat. DO NOT add the garlic and herb stuff at this point - for some reason (the olive oil?) the stuff lowers the temperature of the mixture and it starts to burn almost immediately. Once the butter is all melted and bubbling, but NOT burning/browning or smoking yet, add the chopped onions. This will start to sizzle, and cook the water out. Sometimes if it's an extremely potent onion, cutting and cooking them will cause your eyes to water. DO NOT rub them. To see about cutting onions and cooking, see my blog post about onions.

While the onions are cooking, use a can opener and open your green beans and dump the water off them. You don't need to make sure they're drip-less, a couple of drips are ok, but you don't want to drown the butter - you want the butter to turn the water/juice into steam to heat the beans. Just dump the water and then give them a shake and you should be good. Once the onions are looking all brown-edged, and looking more see-through than cloudy white (maybe all see through, but you want the golden edges) drop in the little pat of herb butter stuff, and your cans of green beans. Stir them until the butter and onions coat the beans, which is like three stirs if you're good, and slap the lid on.

Now, if you're using the dried fake bacon bits, drop them in here. But if you're using real ones, wait until the beans are hot and you're ready to serve, otherwise they'll go all mushy and wet, and loose their flavor. I learned this the hard way.

After about 2 mins, give them another stir and they should be hot. If they're not, just leave the lid on for another couple of mins, but really they should be, and you can turn the burner down instead of off if you like until they're hot. Either way, you can toss in some salt and pepper, but we like them just as they are - canned foods tend to have salt added anyway, and the bacon usually does to, or cured in salt, so it's usually not needed. But hey, you're eating it, so if you want more salt, that's up to you.

You could also doctor this up with a little dried basil, garlic, or some Mrs. Dash. I wouldn't add cheese sauce though - for some reason Onions and cheese don't like each other much.

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