August 1, 2011
haricots verts au wasabi mayonnaise
(green beans with wasabi mayonnaise)
Haricots verts is French for green beans, but it also refers to a particular variety of green beans. Sometimes, my local produce vendor sells them as French beans. There’s a similar bean sold at a nearby farmer’s market as the filet variety of green beans. Whatever they are called, there is a world of different between haricots verts and a Blue Lake or a Kentucky Wonder green bean. For one thing they are thinner and shorter. For another, they just taste better.
In my not so humble opinion, haricots verts taste best when blanched in salted, boiling water until barely cooked, and then shocked in ice water and served cold. The issue of how long to blanch is a matter of how long it has been since the bean was picked. Freshly picked beans cook very fast and older ones take longer. The easiest way to determine doneness is to bite off the end of a bean and taste it. When it no longer tastes raw but is still quite firm, it’s done. After shocking, I drain the beans until they are dry on the surface. To do this, I place a couple of sheets of paper towel on a cloth towel on a baking sheet. Once the cooked and chilled beans are spread out on the towel paper, the whole arrangement is put into the refrigerator until the beans are dry on the surface.
What’s not apparent from the above picture is that the beans are resting in a wasabi mayonnaise. In one sense, each bean is pre‑dipped. When a bean is removed, a bit of the dip sticks to end. The dip is simply a combination of commercial mayonnaise and Japanese wasabi powder. Of course, you can make your own mayonnaise, and instead of the wasabi powder, which in fact is really green‑dyed horseradish, almost any flavoring could be used. Some that quickly come to mind include: curry powder, garam marsala, za’a’tar, ground mustard seed, ground cardamom, smoked paprika, ground prickly ash (Szechwan peppercorn), and ground chipotle pepper. The ratio of mayonnaise to flavoring is strictly a matter of taste.
To assemble this amuse‑bouche, I cut the beans so they are all the same length. I like to use the end away from the stem because it is more attractive. Some dip is spooned into the bottom of the serving dish and then the beans are inserted so that none of the dip is visible. I usually add a small bird or Thai chili pepper for contrast and decoration. (I’ve never seen anyone try to eat the pepper.)