I first encountered this recipe a few years ago; as we planned a holiday “progressive dinner” a friend recommended it as a side dish to accompany our main course. And what a recommendation it was – these green beans are now a Lea family tradition at the holidays. They look and taste “fussy” but they really aren’t much work to assemble, and can be made ahead, then baked at the last minute.
I wholeheartedly recommend using only fresh green beans. Frozen whole green beans would be a second choice. Even though some recipes suggest using canned green beans, I would prepare a different green bean dish if canned beans were the only choice. This recipe is worth the added effort and expense to track down good crisp, plump fresh beans.
1 pound fresh green beans, washed and ends snapped off
8 slices bacon (see note below)
1/8 cup brown sugar
coarse grind pepper
Blanch beans by immersing in boiling water for 2-3 minutes then immediately plunge in ice water to stop the cooking.
Note: I use thick-slice bacon, and I like to pre-cook it (skillet or microwave) for a few minutes to cut down on the baking time. If you use thinner bacon, you may not need to do this added step.
Divide cooled beans into 8 even groups. (You can eyeball it or count them – I’ve done it both ways.) Wrap a slice of bacon around each bundle and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pepper. Place in 350 oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until bacon is fully cooked. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings
Some recipes call for adding mustard (dry or prepared) to the toppings and/or drizzling with melted butter. I haven’t found either is necessary (the bacon provides plenty of fat and the sweet/salty pairing of bacon and brown sugar are marvelous on their own. But you can always jazz ’em up to suit your tastebuds. And if you’re keeping them in a holding pattern – like on a buffet line – a little butter might keep the beans moist.)
Bonus for busy cooks: once you’ve assembled the bundles, they can be refrigerated for a day before baking – just add a few minutes to the cook time to compensate for them being cold when you start.