Right now, on the side of my refrigerator, there is a list that reminds me of everything I need to do, and on what day I need to do it, in order to pull off a successful Thanksgiving dinner. It’s posted right next to my calendar where I schedule my weekly meals.
For me, Thanksgiving preparation is a 3-day process, and this year, I’m not even cooking a turkey – we’re cheating and purchasing a Honeybaked Ham. Random aside: this means it’s been 2 full years since I’ve used my bathtub, since I didn’t do a turkey last year, and the only time I use the tub is when I have to defrost a big bird. It’s the only vessel in my house that’s large enough to hold a cooler with the turkey and provide a source of constantly running cold water for 24 hours that’s needed to get the bird defrosted in order to brine it for another 24 hours and then pop it in the oven. Turkeys take a lot of work and are not for the faint of heart.
I realize that 3 days is nothing compared to those who start freezing things for the big day back in October, but there are very few meals for which I will devote the better part of 3 days of my time. It’s worth it – I hope! – to make my little family happy.
Let’s start with the side dish that has caused the most discussion and controversy: green beans. The first year I made green beans for Thanksgiving, Lindsey assisted with all of my meal prep. With very little discussion, we both agreed that the best way to prepare them was to take fresh green beans, trim the ends, cook in boiling, salted water for about 2 minutes, then shock them in ice water, toss them with a little salt & butter, and top with roasted almonds. They were delicious, classically prepared green beans. Dave, Lindsey and I loved them. Simple and perfect!
Little did I know that the in-laws hated this version, until they sent word about the situation through Dave. Puzzled, I called in the big guns – my mom – and asked, “how else am I supposed to cook green beans?! I mean, if they want them softer, I should just used canned instead of fresh.” Carla’s response? “Yep, that’s what I always do. Why are you using fresh green beans? Just get canned, and add some bacon & onion when they’re cooking. You would’ve known this if you ate my green beans, instead of just macaroni & cheese, while you were growing up.”
Sometimes, it definitely pays to listen to your mom. These “southern style” green beans were exactly what the in-laws had been expecting in the first place, and they’re actually easier than going through the trouble of chopping the ends off haricovert, blanching & shocking, and dressing fresh ones. However, they are controversial, especially for the purists (like Lindsey) who would cry if I served them overcooked, oversalted, green beans out of a can for Thanksgiving.
My personal theory? Both are good, and both have their place at my table. These have bacon grease, so they get a slight advantage for the use of pork fat. However, I wouldn’t make these just for myself – I reserve them only for people who “appreciate” the southern style, like my very southern in-laws.
Southern Style Green Beans (serves 4)
2 15 oz cans green beans, with juices
4-5 slices of bacon
half a yellow onion, diced
salt & pepper to taste
In a medium nonstick saucepan, cook the bacon until all the fat is rendered out but the bacon isn’t overly crispy. Remove the bacon & save. Cook the diced onion with salt & pepper in the rendered bacon grease until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Pour in the 2 cans of green beans, crumble the bacon into the pot, and bring to a simmer. Salt & pepper to taste, then serve.