These sautéed French green beans are a wonderful way to dress up plain beans with great flavor but minimal effort. The little touch of garlic and shallot pairs perfectly with the tender beans. They'll soon be a favorite side.
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When we were in Paris a couple years ago (see my tips for visiting Paris here too, especially with kids), food was naturally an important part of the trip. We didn't go particularly fancy at all, but were fortunate to have some nice little restaurants near where we were staying.
One in particular we enjoyed so much we went a couple times. They didn't have a long menu, but their steak tartare and duck confit were good enough to need a repeat visit. Along with those, the green beans we had as a side were fantastic as well.
In fairness, this isn't quite the way they prepared them there. It was a little unusual and I still need to work on recreating them. But these French green beans with shallots and garlic is a classic way of serving them that I've had elsewhere. It's both easy and oh so delicious.
Are French beans the same as green beans?
Technically they are the same thing, but they are slightly different varieties. The French name for what are often called French green beans, "haricots verts", literally translates as "green beans". In France you use the name for any bean, though the thinner variety is more popular.
In the US, the more common green bean is thicker and longer than what is typically referred to as French beans. The flavor of the two is relatively similar, though there are slight differences.
In general, French beans are a bit more tender and delicate. Some say they are more earthy, but to me a lot really depends on how you cook them. And this, to me, is a great way to bring out the flavor in any bean.
For this recipe, you would typically use haricots verts, but you could equally use regular green beans or the yellow wax beans. The thicker beans may just need an extra minute or two to cook.
Why do you pre-cook the beans?
I know it may seem like an extra step, which in general I am all for avoiding. However here, I do recommend you don't skip it. The process of boiling the beans briefly then cooling in cold water (blanching) means they become tender and it brings out their natural sweetness. They also cook more evenly than if purely sautéed.
You can blanch the beans ahead of time and either set them aside, or refrigerate if a little longer. Then, complete the final steps right before serving. This is where you add all the flavor!
Sautéing with shallots and garlic
Let's be honest, garlic and onions are far from elaborate flavors, but they really are perfect to add just that little something. They become gently sweet which complements the beans well without overpowering them. And even better, it's really quick to prepare.
A couple tips for this part. First, make the shallot and garlic as small as possible so that they spread out and stick to the beans, infusing them with flavor. Then, don't rush sautéing the shallot - you want to make sure they become translucent and starting to caramelize to bring out their sweetness.
Oh, and don't forget to scrape out the skillet as you serve the beans up so that you don't lose any of that tastiness!
These sautéed French green beans are an easy way to brighten up beans, adding simple but delicious flavor. It's a restaurant-style side that's surprisingly easy to make at home. The beans are tender, gently sweet and perfect alongside so many mains. Make sure you enjoy them soon!
Try these other tasty side dishes:
- Maple roasted parsnips with tahini dressing
- Petit pois à la Française (French style peas with bacon)
- Greek green beans (fasolakia)
- Plus get more side dishes and French recipes in the archives.
Sautéed French green beans
- 6 oz French green beans 170g (haricots verts)
- 1 shallot or red onion - giving 3 tbsp chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ tbsp butter
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- If your beans aren't already trimmed, trip the stem end off them. You don't need to bother trimming the narrow end.
- Mince the shallot/onion as fine as you can - basically very finely dice then chop a little further to be very fine. Finely grate or mash the garlic.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the beans and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until just tender then remove and either run under cold water or put in a bowl of iced water. Drain the beans and set aside.
- Warm a small-medium skillet/frying pan over medium heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter has melted and is starting to sizzle, add the shallot and cook for around 2 minutes until the shallot has softened and gone translucent.
- Add the garlic and mix through to distribute it evenly (I sometimes find kind of mashing it in works best) and cook for another 30 seconds. Then add the blanched beans and toss in the shallot-garlic mixture so they become coated. If you have been using a spatula up to this point, I find changing to tongs can help get them evenly coated. Cook, moving around relatively regularly, for around 1 - 2 minutes then serve.
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