FRENCH GREEN BEANS WITH LEMON (haricots verts, for six)
6 to 8 quarts rapidly boiling salted water (1–1/2 teaspoons salt per quart of water)
1-1/2 pounds French beans, washed, drained, ends snapped off
2 or 3 trays of ice cubes (optional)
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons minced parsley
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1. Drop the beans into the rapidly boiling water. Cover briefly, to bring the water quickly back to a boil, then immediately remove the cover. (The secret to cooking green beans so that they retain their bright color and crisp texture is to blanch them in a very large amount of rapidly boiling water – the more water per bean the quicker the water will return to a boil, and the greener and fresher the cooked bean will be).
2. Boil uncovered until the beans are just cooked through but retain a slight crunch of texture –4 to 5 minutes. Test by eating several.
3. Drain the beans immediately when they are done and, if you are not serving immediately, run them under cold water or plunge into a basin filled with ice cubes and water. (Refreshing the beans in cold water – ice water if possible – stops the cooking so that they retain their color and texture. Chilled beans keep well for a few hours).
4. Just before serving, turn the beans into a large skillet and toss over moderately high heat for a moment to evaporate any excess moisture. Then toss them with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper, and several tablespoons of softened butter. Finish it off, if you wish, with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice and the finely grated lemon zest. Serve immediately.
adapted from Julia Child, The Way to Cook