Green beans amandine is a classic French dish, and a deceptively simple one: green beans tossed in hot butter, with almonds scattered throughout. Many recipes add a little diced shallot and garlic. It’s the work of moments, cheap, and fairly unassuming – and, yet, I think it’s one of my top dishes of all time. Of course, when you break down the constituent parts, it’s hardly surprising that the dish is a hit: snappy beans, crisp and just cooked; butter, browned, and coating the beans; crunchy little flakes of almond, golden and toasty; a good sprinkling of sweet shallot and ginger, and a lift of lemon juice. And when you cook it, it smells so fantastic that people flock to the kitchen.
Some recipes use chopped almonds, but for me flaked almonds are vastly superior – and not simply because I always seem to have half a bag of them in the cupboard, gathering dust, never quite sure what to do with them. Their texture, once cooked in the butter, is deliciously, compulsively brittle, rather than the nibbly and nubbly texture of chopped almonds, providing a lovely contrast to the tiny bits of shallot and garlic – and they look elegant too, nestled among the beans.
It’s something of a code switch to call the dish ‘green beans amandine’, as opposed to ‘haricots verts amandine’ or ‘green beans with almonds’, but it’s so satisfying to say, and I find myself marching round the kitchen as I prepare it chanting ‘green beans amandine! Green beans amandine!’ like some sort of French cookery obsessed Dr Seuss character.
Although this is a simple dish, it’s rooted in classical techniques: blanching, cooking the nuts in butter, and emulsifying a butter sauce. Boiling the beans in salted water and then plunging into ice water retains the vibrant green of the veg, as well as ensuring that they don’t continue cooking through residual heat once you take them off the hob, leading to limp, straggly, greying beans, the type that were, for me at least, a permanent fixture of school dinners. Cooking the nuts in the butter is a far more efficient way than the more usual dry-pan method, or toasting them in the oven, and the butter helps the nuts brown evenly, making it less likely that they’ll burn.
Once you’ve coated the beans in the nutty butter, and added the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of water, the key is agitating the whole thing to bring it together. Shaking the pan may not feel like very much is happening (although it does look quite cheffy, which is a bonus), but it is that shaking which helps the butter and water emulsify together. This should take well under a minute, and result in a glassy, glossy sauce that coats the beans beautifully. But it’s an easy one to fix if it’s not quite there: if it looks watery, keep heating and shuffling the pan; if it looks greasy, add a little more water.
You can top and tail the green beans, but I rather like the wiggly, tapering tails of the beans left untouched, just knocking off the very top most tips where the beans joined the plant. I’m not sure I can think of a dish it wouldn’t go with. Soup, I suppose? But otherwise it’s a terribly multi-purpose dish: I have yet to meet someone who isn’t completely delighted by this dish – it punches way above its weight – and it makes a pretty great (and chic) addition to a picnic, as well as a side for a barbecue.
Green beans amandine
Makes: Enough for four as a side
Takes: 15 minutes
Bakes: No time at all
320g green beans
25g salted butter
30g flaked almonds
1 banana shallots, sliced thinly
2 small garlic cloves, sliced thinly
½ lemon, juiced and zested
- First blanch the green beans in a large pan full of generously salted boiling water. Have a large bowl of iced water ready. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the beans are tender, but still crisp – check by biting the end of one of them. Strain the beans into a sieve or colander and then immediately transfer into the iced water.
- Melt the butter in a cast iron pan. Once the butter is bubbling, add the almonds, and sauté, stirring, the whole time. Once the almonds are turning golden-brown, add the shallots and garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes more.
Transfer the blanched beans to the skillet, and toss the ingredients together. Add the lemon juice and zest, and season. Turn out onto a dish or platter, and serve.