Vintage Kitchen: Monticello String Beans with French Dressing

STEPHANIE BURT (this article was first published on December 10, 2012)

Photo by Leslie McKellar

Each month in the Vintage Kitchen column, Stephanie Burt revisits a vintage recipe and updates it for the modern palate.

Okay. You’ve probably just had a classic green bean casserole, and in less than a month, you will probably see another one on the holiday table. I am not here to deride it. (What’s the saying? It is what it is).  However, I felt compelled to offer another alternative from the Southern cookbook archives for a green bean dish to satisfy the whole family.

I chose this recipe for one simple reason –  bacon. If you have to forgo the French fried onions, then bacon is a deserved substitute. In addition, all these ingredients are fresh – no cans here.

Photo by Leslie McKellar

String Beans with French Dressing

From The Monticello Cook Book, The University of Virginia Hospital Circle, 1949.

String Beans

French slice young, tender string beans and cook for 15 minutes, or until just tender, in small amount of salted water. Drain and pour over them hot French dressing and sprinkle with bits of crisp bacon.

French Dressing

  • 1 qt. oil
  • ¾ c. vinegar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • mustard
  • salt
  • paprika
Photo by Leslie McKellar

I have to admit something here. I had never frenched green beans. I’ve snapped many a bean, made fresh dilly beans and more, but frenched green beans come from a can. Or so I’d always thought. And this is what I learned. These “ladies of old” knew their way around a knife better than I.

Whoa. Beans are skinny. And you are attempting to cut them on the bias – in half. However, beans are forgiving, so do the best you can. The frenched cut give the beans a more delicate texture and a faster cooking time, and it’s worth it.

I served this for friends, and we loved it. It had a bit of a twang with the mustard based dressing, and the pork and beans were smoky and fresh. All in all, a worthy substitute for THE green bean casserole that usually graces our table.

Here’s the revised version.

The Vintage Kitchen revised version of String Bean with French Dressing. Photo by Leslie McKellar

Vintage Kitchen Revised String Beans with French Dressing

String Beans

  • 1 c. chopped pork belly (I had it on hand. Plus, it’s fancy and worthy of a holiday table.)
  • Approx. 1 lb. fresh green beans
  • 1 tsp. salt

– Fry chopped pork belly in cast iron skillet.

– While that is cooking, rinse beans, then French, cutting on the long bias of each bean.
– Drain pork on paper towel. Set aside.
Photo by Leslie McKellar
– Boil enough water to cover the beans, add salt, then cook the beans for 15 minutes.

French Dressing

  • 1 c. oil (I do not need enough dressing for an army here, so I halved it.)
  • 1/3 c. vinegar
  • egg yolk (I have no fear of raw egg)
  • 1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard (think the recipe was calling for dry mustard, but didn’t have it. Had prepared mustard, which of course has vinegar in it, so I knew it would play well).
  • Paprika to taste (about ¾ tsp. for me)
  • Pinch of salt

Mix dry ingredients in bowl with vinegar.

Photo by Leslie McKellar

Whisk in egg yolk.

Photo by Leslie McKellar
– Slowly incorporate oil, whisking continuously while pouring a thin stream into the bowl.
Photo by Leslie McKellar
Taste, add salt and/or more paprika to taste.
Photo by Leslie McKellar

Assemble the dish, pouring the dressing over the green beans and then sprinkling with the pork. The warm beans will warm the dressing.


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