Mustard Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

Mustard Green Beans with Caramelized ShallotsEarlier this week, I talked about what I made for dinner Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  While Stacy’s Slow Cooker Ham was the centerpiece of our holiday meal (I will SO be making that again), I prepared some other very nice dishes.

This was one of them.

Being a wee bit tired of the usual green bean dishes, I came across the basis for this one while searching for “holiday green bean” recipes.  My variation isn’t much different from the recipe I eventually chose, except I doubled the shallots and took the time to caramelize them.  The result was a vegetable side dish that went surprisingly well with the fruity ham and creamy yet spicy sweet potatoes.

Extremely easy and full of subtle but complex flavors, this dish is best made with fresh green beans, although I imagine they would be fine with frozen or canned beans.  If you use frozen green beans, thaw them but don’t bother to steam; if using canned green beans, drain them and omit the salt – either way, simply make sure the beans are heated through before adding the sour cream.  Don’t scrimp on the tarragon or shallots, and don’t leave out the sour cream; this is a really nice and tasty way to serve green beans.

Mustard Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

serves 6

2 ½ tablespoons dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon dried tarragon

1½ pounds fresh, frozen or canned green beans, trimmed

3 tablespoons butter

1½ cups thinly sliced shallots

¼ cup sour cream

Mix the mustard, salt, pepper and tarragon together well in a small bowl; set aside.

Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a heavy skillet. When the foaming subsides, add the shallots and reduce the heat to low. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently so they do not burn, until they are soft, brown and caramelized, 20 – 30 minutes.

While the shallots are cooking, steam the green beans (if using fresh), covered, until tender-crisp; keep warm.

Add the steamed green beans to the caramelized shallots; add the mustard mixture and stir until well combined. Heat through and stir in the sour cream. Serve immediately.

I Has a Resolve

ResolutionsThis week’s Spin Cycle is all about New Year’s Resolutions.

It’s also an anniversary of sorts, because my very first post for the Spin Cycle was the New Year’s Resolution post for 2009. And, as with most New Year’s Resolutions, I did a so-so job. Sometimes I lived up to my resolution, but mostly and sometimes I didn’t. All I really know is I’m so glad I decided to participate in this weekly forum, if for no other reason than I met and became friends with Jen. A humorous and stubborn determined woman, she’s my kind of people.

At any rate, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to post this year for my resolution, until Beloved suggested I only make resolutions I can keep. So, that’s what I’ll do.

Ahem.

I resolve to support Beloved in his attempt to quit smoking this year. (Five days so far – let’s hear it for Beloved!  Woo-hoo!)

I resolve to buy a pair of Skechers Shape Ups. (I can’t promise I’ll use them with any regularity, but I will buy a pair.)

I resolve to cook and eat lots of healthy foods. (And lots of unhealthy foods too, I’m sure…but we won’t talk about that.)

I resolve not to kill any of my kids. (So far, so good.)

I resolve to learn more about photography. (There’s something called Project365 over at Digital Photography School where you take a picture and publish it, either on your blog or somewhere like Flickr, every day for a year. I’m considering it…Beloved may kill me, but I am considering it.)

I resolve to participate in NaBloPoMo again one month in the coming year. (February works for me!)

I resolve to spoil my grandson rotten. (Done!)

I resolve to live through another year of menopause without committing murder. (Another given.)

I resolve not to Facebook or Twitter to excess. (Since both accounts have been terribly neglected – I just don’t have time to indulge in those and blog too – I think this resolution should be pretty easy.)

I resolve to love and adore my Beloved as much as he loves and adores me.

Now that is one resolution I know I can keep.

RTT: Noisy Toys and Extreme Parenting

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Well, folks – it’s that time of the week again, so grab that purple button and head on over to Keely’s for some totally random Tuesday fun.

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I hope you all had a lovely holiday! With no kids or grandkids around, Beloved and I spent four days being completely brain-dead and useless.

Not so easy for Beloved. Me? I spent the entire time preparing for the coming zombie invasion, courtesy of Oldest Son.

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One thing I did learn during my holiday downtime:  it is extremely difficult to lay down on the sofa and nap through Saving Private Ryan.

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We gave the dog a stuffed toy for Christmas which he immediately disemboweled in the middle of the living room floor. He did it so ferociously it makes me glad he is a small dog.

We’re going to be cleaning up plushy guts for the next week.

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Since we knew that we wouldn’t see them until after the New Year, Beloved and I put off shopping for Little Guy until this weekend – partly so we could hit some after-Christmas sales, but mostly so we could avoid the pre-Christmas crowds. And as usual when we venture out into public, we managed to offend someone (something we pride ourselves on).

So, as we surveyed age appropriate toys for our darling grandson in Target on Sunday, Beloved whipped one off of the shelf and said, “Hey, look! This one will make a LOT of noise!!” before tossing it in the cart.

I laughed and took another one down, gleefully chortling, “Oh, this one has a HAMMER!” and likewise added it to our cart.  By the time we found the blow-up punching bag that was shaped like a penguin and played music every time you gave it a good whack, we noticed we were being watched.  The woman looked to be in her mid-twenties and was very well-dressed and well-groomed.

She was also frowning at us.

Finally she said with a great deal of disapproval, “You must not like your children very much!”

We both burst out laughing, and Beloved said, “We love our kids a lot!  But part of the fun of being a grandparent is getting your grandkids lots of noisy, fun toys!”

“Well, I’m the parent, and I don’t think it’s funny at all.”  (Grumpy biotch.)  By this time I was rolling my eyes, but Beloved just laughed some more and told her, “Well, just wait until you’re a grandparent!” and threw something that squeaked loudly in our cart.

She walked off in a huff, muttering something about how she would never do that to her children.  I’m sure I said the same thing on the evening of Oldest Son’s first birthday, when he received a drum, a xylophone, one of those Fisher Price “popcorn popper” push toys and all manner of other things that rattled, rang and roared from his collective grandparents and great-aunts and uncles.

I’d love to be around in 20 or so years when this woman is buying presents for her grandkids.  Oh, yes indeed.

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When school started this year, The Young One became fast friends with a young man we’ll call…Archibold.  Now, good ol’ Archie spent the previous 9 years attending a Montessori school and is exceedingly intelligent – he was at our house two afternoons the week before last and I now know more about lizards, snakes, salamanders and various other reptiles and amphibians than I ever cared to (he wants to be a scientist when he grows up, and boy, can he TALK – and here I thought The Young One never shut up).  But he’s a really nice kid and I’m more than happy for The Young One to chum around with him.

Like most teenagers he’s begun to question his parents values, and like a lot of kids he has discovered the thing that upsets his parents most to rebel against.  He has decided that he no longer wants to be a part of organized religion and has stopped attending church.  We talked a little bit about his parent’s disapproval of this while he was here, and at one point he said, “It’s not as if I don’t believe in a higher power!”

The Young One immediately piped up and said, “Yeah, I believe in a higher power, too – and she’s sitting right there!”

Anyone care to discuss the Gospel according to Mom?

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The previous story has even more bearing when you consider one of the gifts Beloved bought The Young One for Christmas this year:

Flying Fuck

Because we’re the kind of parents that give a flying fuck.

Chipotle Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

Chipotle Scalloped Sweet PotatoesI hope you all had a lovely holiday and weekend!  We most certainly did.  It was very quiet around here, with just me and Beloved and Scooter.  I, of course, did a lot of cooking – prime rib, roasted garlic white cheddar mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach for dinner on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas I made Stacy, The Random Cool Chick’s Slow Cooker Ham recipe.  If you haven’t been to Stacy’s blog, you don’t know what you’ve been missing.  She posts great holiday recipes, makes her own wine, has the most lovely home decorating ideas you’ve ever seen, does some of the coolest giveaways and is mom to the cutest (to say nothing of the funniest) daughter in the first grade, Princess Nagger.  And she’s a sweetheart, to boot.

And the ham?  Was absolutely FABULOUS.  I can’t even begin to tell you how delicious that ham was.  It’s super simple, too.  You can adjust the spices to your own taste (I’m not all that fond of cloves so I cut down on them, and a full tablespoon of vanilla seemed excessive although I may add it next time), but what ever you do, don’t leave out the orange peel!  It just infused the whole ham with the most wonderful flavor.  If you eat ham, you must make this.  Beloved just raved about it and scarfed down the leftovers all weekend long (it was really good cold).

The side dishes were a little more difficult to come up with – Beloved asked for sweet potatoes and green beans.  And while he would have settled for plain baked sweet potatoes and the usual steamed or sauteed green beans, I just couldn’t see making those for Christmas dinner, even if it was just the two of us.  So after scouring my large collection of cookbooks as well as the internet, I found a couple of recipes that sounded as if they’d be perfect with the ham (did I mention that not only is the ham easy, but versatile as well?).

I think I mentioned once that there isn’t anything you can do with white potatoes that you can’t do better with sweet potatoes – the one caveat was scalloped potatoes.  I now stand corrected:  these scalloped sweet potatoes are to die for.  Based on a recipe by Bobby Flay, they’re pretty spicy, but the richness of the cream and the mild sweetness of the potatoes balances the heat perfectly.  You can, of course, cut down on the chipotle if it suits you (seeding the pepper will reduce the spiciness), but if you can take the heat use the full tablespoon of adobo sauce and the largest pepper in the can.  (Thursday you get the recipe for the green beans, which were also quite tasty.)

Chipotle Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

serves 4 to 6

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8″ thick (use a mandolin if you have one)

1 large chipotle pepper (bottled or canned), very finely chopped, seeds and all

1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce the peppers are packed in

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Butter an 8″ x 11″ glass baking dish well.

Whisk the cream, chipotle pepper and adobo sauce together well in a medium-sized sauce pan; heat gently over medium-low heat until barely simmering.  Remove from heat.

Overlapping the slices slightly, place a layer of the sweet potato in the bottom of the baking dish; sprinkle with half the garlic.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the cream mixture evenly over the potatoes and garlic.  Layer more potatoes on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with another 1/4 cup of the cream mixture.  Repeat with another layer of potatoes and garlic, and another 1/4 cup of the cream mixture.  Layer the last of the potatoes, sprinkle with more salt and pepper and pour the remaining cream sauce evenly over the top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 30 – 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and all of the cream has been absorbed.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.