Belgian Style ❦ Metje’s Green Beans

Metje's Belgian Green Beans | © Urban Cottage Life.com

Every time I set a dish of these beans on the table, I know one of my kids will ask, “Are those Metje’s beans?” It seems that if ever my mother had a signature dish, her way of making beans was it.

I remember Mom making these throughout my life, in particular mincing the onions directly into the frying pan sometimes (I learned some rather questionable knife skills from her). I’ve always assumed that Mom learned how to make these from her mother; there’s certainly a Belgian flair to this recipe. Not that I ever saw her use a recipe for them, and neither have I. It’s just how we make beans.

Yes, I’ve made some changes to Mom’s method over the years. Sometimes I throw in some yellow beans just for colour variety, like I did this Thanksgiving. Sometimes I use shallots or garlic instead of onion. I might use olive oil in place of the butter, and I’ve tried a variety of vinegars too. Mom always cut her beans into pieces about an inch and a half long, but I prefer to leave mine full length with the little tails still on (now that’s a change that raised Mom’s eyebrows). But no matter what I do, someone will always remark that these are Metje’s beans. As indeed they are.

Isn’t wonderful that someone’s memory can live on every time a simple dish that’s a family favourite is brought to the table?

Metje's Belgian Green Beans | © Urban Cottage Life.com

Belgian-Style Green Beans

As a side dish for 4 to 6 people.

While a large pot of water is coming to a rolling boil, trim and wash about 1-1/2 pounds of green beans (substitute yellow beans for some of the green if you wish). Cut the beans into sections if you like, or leave them full-length. For added flair, leaves the curly tails on. When the water is boiling, add a teaspoon or so of salt, and then the beans. Cover the pot, turn the heat down a bit but maintain the boil, and cook for 4 minutes or until desired doneness is reached, keeping in mind the beans will cook further in the skillet.

While the beans are par-boiling, cut a small onion in half and mince it. Substitute a shallot or a clove or two of garlic if you wish. Pour the beans and their water through a strainer in the sink, and shake as much water from them as you can.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, and add 3 tablespoons of butter. When it’s melted and foamy, add the minced onion and cook, stirring well, until the onions are translucent or even beginning to brown. Stir in 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of white vinegar (or, white wine or red wine vinegar). Add the beans to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and mix everything together well, just until reheated.

Make Ahead Directions: While the beans are cooking, cook the butter, onion and vinegar sauce and set it aside to cool. Once you’ve drained the beans, plunge them into a bowl of ice water to chill them quickly. Drain them again, shake off as much water as possible and roll them in a clean tea towel to dry them. Lightly grease a glass or stoneware baking dish (preferably one you can use for serving). Layer in half the beans, spoon half the sauce over top, then repeat with the rest of the beans and sauce. Cover tightly with foil and/or plastic wrap and refrigerate up to one day ahead. Reheat covered with foil in a 350℉ oven for 30 minutes, or until hot.

17 comments

    • The kids like it too when I talk about their grandmother — brings back memories. I had dinner at Jenn’s tonight and she made these beans … that’s the fourth generation that I know of!

    • These recipes can be tricky to write up sometimes, since I usually just throw in a little of this and that, and switch things up from time to time. I’m glad to have this one down though, as a starting point for anyone who would like to try it!

  1. I come from a Flemish Belgian family, both sides, as far back at the 15th century. This is how my grandmothers made beans. Lots of butter, caramelized onion, cast iron pan. You can also do carrots this way, although the recipe for that is different, and the cooking method, too – it does, of course, include onions and butter. If anyone wants that one, I’d be happy to share. There’s also the “mayonnaise” salad, the “endive” salad (the name for endive in ancient slang Flemish is hilarious, and of course, “fritten”. Oh, Apple beer “doughnuts” are a staple, too! Thanks for this!! It’s spot on, although my grandma did the onions first, added water and blanched the beans on the onion and butter, in the same pot, then drained the water and put them on the stove for a bit longer.

    • Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information, Stacy, including your Flemish family history. I love hearing your grandmother’s method for making the beans – very efficient! My Mom liked making endive salad (sometimes with her handmade mayonnaise), and she used to call it witlof. I can just imagine what that slang might be! I’d be interested in hearing your Flemish recipe for carrots.

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