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Beans. The lowly green bean. A guest at our house who just moved back from Italy lamented that green beans in the US are so much worse than those in Italy. I call BS. Green beans here are as great as they are anywhere. Which is to say that they are moderately good. Like most produce, the green bean picked  and cooked immediately is good and the green bean cooked young is good, but what about the mature green bean purchased at the market? Certainly our guest, whose comment reflects a change from shopping in the markets of Rome to the Wal-mart in Oklahoma, in my opinion, moreso than the difference in beans, thinks that they are useless. I do not. 

After Passard’s masterful green beans, peaches, and white almonds recipe, perhaps my favorite preparation of green beans is in the form of Dilly Beans. Dilly beans take the aspect of mature green beans that most people dislike, the relative firmness (some made call them woody), and turn it into a positive. Unlike most pickles, the dilly bean is nearly forever crisp. Armed with beans and dill from my parents’ garden, I went to work.

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After growing up eating the dilly beans destined for summer Bloody Mary’s in Northern Wisconsin, I had gone more than a decade before returning to the pickle. My reintroduction to dilly beans happened in a place where if you are going to get reintroduced to Americana in food form, it is place to do it – Husk in Charleston.

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As noted, we had everything on the menu, but the dish with the dilly beans was particularly notable for two reasons. First, it had dilly beans. Second, the dish featured, in addition to dilly beans, perfect catfish and perhaps the best bite of food that I have had all year, a puree of cornbread.

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The basis for the cornbread was the the famous Husk cornbread, done correctly, as in unsweetened, and pureed with as much buttermilk as desired. The texture is perfectly silky, but the flavor is such a powerhouse cornbread flavor. You look at it and expect it to be cornbread-batter-ish, but it is a concentrated version of it.

After a long run, I whipped up cornbread puree and topped with dilly beans, crispy chicken skins, and hot sauce. Like dilly beans, nothing about the dish was fancy, but everything about the dish was satisfying. Each bite was crispy, crunchy, and silky. Each taste was sour, savory, and completely fantastic.

Dilly Beans

  • Green beans
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 5 sprigs dill

Step one: Pack beans, garlic, chili flakes, and dill into a pint jar.

Step two: Boil vinegar, water, and salt for 1 minutes and pour over beans.

Step three: Screw lid on jar and let sit in fridge for a week. Use at will.

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