Fun with Frenching

Photos by Kerri Conan

Friday night, one glass of wine into firing the grill for steak with a pile of farmers’-market string beans in the sink, I decided to kill some time Frenching.

The plan was to stir-fry the beans in olive oil with lots of garlic and shallots until droopy, then add tomato wedges, cover, and let them stew just long enough to release some juice but not their skins. Off heat, I’d stir in a handful of basil leaves from the back yard, adjust the seasoning, and serve at room temperature. Splitting the beans lengthwise—like fancy canned and frozen green beans—would help the pods soften and absorb flavor, and I liked the idea of getting random bites with baby seeds.

My ad hoc by-hand technique varied: For straight beans, I lined the business side of the knife on top and pushed down with conviction, pretending not to care when the odd end slipped free of the hack. If they were curved, I used the seam on the bean as a guide to run the tip of the blade from the middle outward in both directions, turning each between strokes. I’m pretty fast with a knife and like the practice but apparently you can also lay them horizontally in the feed tube of a food processor and let the slicing disk do the work.

Whatever your method or recipe, try Frenching at least once this season. There’s a reason why they’re cut that way for green bean casserole. This quick braise had all the freshness you want from summer vegetables, without the squeaky stick-to-your-teeth chalkiness of lightly cooked green beans. Instead their exposed insides provided a silky counterpoint to the crisp skins. And the leftovers can become anything from a three-bean salad or toast topper to a rich frittata.

– Kerri Conan

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce


  1. Joan Harper said...

    Great idea whether it is Mark Bittman’s or Kerri Conan’s! I did it with marjoram because my basil had been decimated making pesto! It was terrific! I never thought about the reason why beans are Frenched but it really works when you are cooking them quickly.

  2. Lawren Spera said...

    Thank you for this reminder! My mother gave me a little Frenching tool for Christmas and I really didn’t think to use it until I saw your post. It’s small, box-shaped with stacked vertical blades inside, and a little bigger than the size of my thumb. You pull the bean through. It’s as time-consuming as using a knife, but the finished product is so elegant.

    I had been making sour pickles and used some of the leftover brine (fermented pickle juice) at the bottom of the pan to steam the beans. When they were nice and bright green, I took them out, tossed them with olive oil, crumbled feta and black pepper.

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