Humdrum. That’s usually what I think of when I hear someone mention green beans as a Thanksgiving side dish. If they aren’t in the form of a casserole topped with french fried onions and tasting of cream of mushroom soup, they’re stripped of their natural fresh green color by steaming or boiling and served without much flavor.
Then there’s this dish, which I adapted from one provided by The Associated Press. Oh yes: AP doesn’t just cover world news, politics, the economy, technology, and sports. They cook, too, and they do it well. With its mix of tangy Dijon mustard, fresh lemon zest, black licorice-fragrant tarragon, and the nuttiness of toasted sunflower seeds, this green bean recipe will stand up as a highlight at the Thanksgiving table rather than skulk behind the turkey and stuffing.
To prep, gather up two tablespoons of unsalted butter, a pound of fresh green beans with their ends trimmed, kosher salt, fresh tarragon, Dijon mustard, the zest of a small lemon, and a 1/4 cup of toasted unsalted sunflower seeds.
When it comes to the tarragon, note that you only want the leaves, not the stem. The technique for removing the leaves from the stems is the same technique for removing rosemary leaves: Simply hold the tip of the sprig with one hand and then pull the leaves downward against the direction of their growth on the stem with the other hand. You’re aiming for 1-1/2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon, so stripping the leaves off two to three sprigs should be enough.
In a large deep skillet, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat until most of the foaminess is gone and the melted butter has an amber color when you swirl it around.
Add the trimmed green beans, sprinkle them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and toss to coat the beans in the browned butter.
Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the beans uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they’ve just begun to blister, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heated burner, then add the chopped tarragon, Dijon mustard, and lemon zest. I prefer to stir in each flavoring separately just to make sure I don’t end up with naked green beans and others burdened with flavor.
Transfer the prepped beans to a serving dish, then sprinkle with half of the toasted sunflower seeds. Serve the rest of the toasted seeds in a small bowl so that guests can add more to their helping if they’d like.
This recipe serves 4 to 6 people, making it great for non-holiday dinners, too. But, if you’re serving it at the big November feast and you’re expecting 8 to dine, multiply everything by two; if you’re serving 10 to 12 people, multiply everything by three.
Green Beans with Tarragon, Mustard and Sunflower Seeds
Recipe adapted from AP News
Serves 4 to 6 people // 15 minutes prep, 10-15 minutes to cook
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup toasted unsalted sunflower seeds
- In a deep skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it smells toasty and has an amber color when swirled, about 5 minutes.
- Add green beans and salt and toss to coat in butter. Reduce heat to medium low and allow the beans to cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until green beens just begin to blister, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Stir in tarragon, lemon zest and mustard. Transfer to a serving dish, then sprinkle half of the sunflower seeds over the green beans. Serve the rest of the toasted seeds in a small bowl and encourage guests to sprinkle more over their helping. Best served warm to hot.