Gourmet (November 2000)
It was a nasty, cold, damp night in New York City last winter. We were meeting our friends I. and A. for dinner at the Red Cat in Chelsea. A sprint through the chilly rain was followed by a too-long wait in the artificially hot, overcrowded entryway of the restaurant. We were finally deposited at our table, and the host was about to turn away. But I. put her hand on his arm before he could leave. "Excuse me," she said, "but we're going to need an emergency order of tempura green beans."
I.'s order was heaven-sent. The beans were snappy, crispy little bites of hope, restoring our good cheer and paving the way for a delightfully long dinner with friends.
We knew just what we needed: an emergency order of tempura green beans.
Maybe the idea of tempura sounds daunting. But it's basically as easy as making a pot of pasta. And with this recipe we dug up from a November 2000 issue of Gourmet, it's super-simple.
We were always under the impression that to make tempura at home, you needed rice flour (in fact, we had been meaning to pick some up for months). It turns out you can make tempura batter with ingredients you probably always have in your pantry. In fact, if you're the kind of person who keeps sesame seeds on hand, the only thing you'll even need to buy are the beans themselves.
They turned out beautifully! Each bite was warm and crackly, with the beans still crunchy and vibrant inside. The very-easy-to-make dipping sauce gave the beans a nice sweet-and-sour kick, with salty soy sauce and citrusy lime.
When we brought out the plate at our dinner for B., the guests' faces all lit up with smiles, and everyone started grabbing for a crispy, sesame-coated bite before we could even set the plate on the table.
The next time you're looking for something that's easy and crowd-pleasing, but with a slightly exotic twist, you need an emergency order for yourself.
Active time: 20 min Start to finish: 20 min
Servings: Makes 6 (hors d’oeuvre) servings.
About 4 cups vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon superfine granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup beer (not dark)
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed
Heat 2 inches oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until a deep-fat thermometer registers 365°F.
While oil is heating, make dipping sauce by stirring together soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Whisk together flour and sesame seeds and whisk in beer until batter is smooth.
Toss about 10 beans in batter until coated. Add to oil 1 at a time (to keep separate) and fry, turning, until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt to taste. Coat and fry remaining beans in same manner.
Serve beans with dipping sauce.