[A final word from Chris, whose day it has been to shine in the spotlight as a potential writer for the site.]
Even on the steamiest days of our city summer, I occasionally get a craving for rich dinners. It's not beef bourguignon and buttered noodles that I want, but something saucy that features the tender vegetables of summer.
I based this recipe on a side dish my Aunt Lucille's made every summer. I remember driving to a road side stand in upstate New York to pick up waxy string beans fresh from the field and newly dug potatoes.
This recipe has a very few ingredients and doesn't rely on spices for punch. This means that each ingredient has to be perfect to make this dish taste excellent. If you can't find farmer's market fresh tender string beans or don't want to cook with whole milk and bacon, don't bother with this recipe.
Aunt Lucille's Summer Stew
1 1/2 pounds medium-sized fresh red potatoes
1 pound fresh string beans (a combination of yellow and green looks the best)
6-8 strips of good bacon
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh ground pepper
Clean the potatoes and cut out any bad spots. Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are easily pierced with a fork.
Snap the ends of the beans off and cut them in half. In a second pot of boiling water, boil the string beans for 5-8 minutes until they are tender.
Cut the bacon strips into small pieces, using kitchen scissors or a knife. While the vegetables are boiling, start cooking the bacon on medium heat in a dutch oven. Cook the bacon until most of the fat has been rendered. Once the bacon is crispy and the fat has rendered, reserve the bacon on a paper towel. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and discard the rest.
When the bacon fat has cooled, add the flour. Cook the bacon fat and flour mixture for about two minutes on medium heat.
Add the whole milk to the flour mixture. Continue to cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened. Do not allow the sauce to come to a full boil. Add the butter to the thickened sauce. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind that since you will be garnishing the dish with bacon, you do not want to add too much salt.
When the potatoes and beans have finished cooking, drain them and return them to the pot the potatoes have cooked in, to keep them warm. Cut the cooked potatoes in half or quarters. Add the potatoes and beans to the cream sauce mixture.
When serving, add the bacon pieces on top of the summer stew.