Friday, September 24, 2010

Green Beans and Sugar Snap Peas with Candied Ham

I find that a new kitchen makes me hesitant to improvise in my cooking.  While I have tried recipes which were new to me, including Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese (scrumptious!) and a Morrocan Chicken Tagine (flavorful and exotic!), I hadn't really created any new recipes of my own, until tonight.  And while it is just a side dish, and a fairly simple one on that, it's tasty, and it's nice to be able to call this one mine.

Necessity was the mother of this invention, as the amount of fresh vegetables in the fridge were dwindling and a full dinner should always have something from the veggie family in my mind.  I originally thought, "Roasted carrots!"  But then remembered that my boyfriend doesn't like them (sigh).  I wanted something hearty, that would taste like the beginnings of fall, which is what we are experiencing in Seattle these days.  (Do you ever suddenly look up near the end of September and realize the leaves are changing colors?  Even if it has been happening right in front of me for some time, there's usually a moment where I think, "Wow!  What lovely leaves!").  This recipe combines some of the flavors of holiday ham and the crispness of fresh green beans.  Since we had some sugar snap peas I threw them in as well, though just green beans would be fine.  Served with baked risotto and some roasted chicken, this is a great side dish to welcome in the fall.  Since my significant other has never been one to turn down a meal with pork, this was a hit.  

Green Beans and Sugar Snap Peas with Candied Ham

1/2 ham steak, diced
1 large handful green beans, ends      trimmed
1 small handful sugar snap peas, ends  trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  While it is reaching the boil, prepare another bowl with an ice bath.  When the water is boiling, add salt liberally, then throw in the green beans and sugar snap peas.  Blanche for about 1 minute, just to increase the green color and remove the squeakiness of the beans; remove with a strainer and place immediately in the ice bath.  Remove from the ice bath and dry completely (this is important so that the water doesn't splash when it hits the hot oil later).

2.  In a good-size skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil.  When the olive oil is shimmering, add the ham; the ham should sizzle when it hits the pan (you want it to be good and crispy).  Sprinkle the brown sugar over the ham and stir to coat.

3.  Once the ham has cooked for a minute or two and has that wonderful golden-brown look to it, add the green beans.  The heat will essentially sear the green beans, and this will happen very quickly, so don't walk away, lest they burn.  Stir the green beans, let sit a very brief moment, then stir again.  Once the green beans have a little color to them from the searing (as Anne Burrell says, "Brown food tastes good!") remove the green beans from the heat; taste a bean, season with salt accordingly, and serve immediately to your pork-obsessed significant other.  

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