Years ago, the lovely Massachusetts-based town of Newburyport boasted a really fun, neighborhood restaurant called "Glenn's." Glenn and Charlene hired terrific help (just thinking about bartenders Chuck and Kristine makes me smile), hosted amazing blues bands on Sundays and executed the perfect combination of good food meets a great vibe.
But before I delve deeper into one of my fondest restaurant destinations in the ol' 'hood, let's talk about green beans. I. Love. Green. Beans. And the only thing I could possibly like more is a perfectly pungent bleu cheese.
These are a few of my favorite things...haricots verts and fromage bleu! Mon Dieu!
Legend has it that blue cheese was discovered in Roquefort, France, when a young man snacking on bread and cheese made from ewe's milk saw a beautiful woman in the distance. He promptly left his meal in a relatively cool cave to approach her. When he returned to his leftovers many months later, he found the first Roquefort bleu cheese. Oh, those French!
Bleu cheese...is there anything this stinky, wonderful and delicious gem can't do?
Having worked for a short time in a cheese shop, I learned to appreciate the subtle differences between bleus...Roquefort, as noted in the legend, is the only one made from sheep's milk; Stilton, Maytag, Cabrales, Danish, Oxford and Cambozola are all made from cow's milk. And none of these beauties should be confused with Gorgonzola...of which there are two main types, Dolce and Piccante. My personal favorite of the two is Gorgonzola Dolce...I consider it a cheese and a dessert. And though Dolce would rightfully be the star of any charcuterie worth its salt, a crumbled Roquefort or Stilton is best for this recipe.
Anyway, my favorite neighborhood restaurant made this sauce…theirs was a little sweeter and heavier on the fat content than my version, but fabulous, nonetheless.
So, imagine my surprise when I told Glenn, "I think I cracked your spicy green bean sauce." He looked at me with a perfectly straight face and said, "Ah, so you found it at the grocery store, eh?"
Me, "Wait, what?
No matter, I figured out how to make a really rich and flavorful sauce that is beyond tasty. In fact, unlike my pal Glenn, I lack the ability to deep fry my beans, so I blanch then pan sear them. Follow up with a quick sauté in the sauce (about 1/4 cup), then top with bleu cheese just before serving. The sauce on broccolini or asparagus (prepared the same way as the beans) or used as a baste on roasted chicken, also works.
In saucepan, over medium high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, cooking for approximately 2 minutes…you want to begin to caramelize the two. Add in bottle of hot sauce. Stir well, letting the mixture cook about 1 minute.
Slowly stir in all dry spices (cayenne, white pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper), as well as the grated onion and minced garlic.
Bring all to a simmer for 3-5 mins., stirring constantly.
Drop heat to low, add lemon, ketchup and honey. Stir well. Pull off heat and let sit until cool. Makes about 2-3 cups. Best of all, you can store this in the fridge in – what else – a ball jar, for weeks and weeks.
Clean and prep 1 pound fresh green beans (or broccolini, asparagus, etc.). Par cook in boiling water for approximately 2-3 minutes...should be al dente. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in pan to shimmering. Add vegetable, sautéing and turning so that the beans begin to brown (this emulates the "deep frying" process). Pour 1/4 cup of the sauce over veggies, tossing to coat and, if veggies were prepared ahead of time and are coming from the fridge, until heated thru (about 1-2 minutes).
Turn onto serving platter and sprinkle with bleu cheese crumbles. The heat will lightly melt the cheese.