A classic Greek one pan meal of fresh green beans baked alongside chicken and potatoes in a rich tomato sauce
Our parents’ garden is full of delicious things to eat, including a large section devoted to a few varieties of green beans. Growing tall, these plants are secured by using things like long bamboo shoots, old broken hockey sticks (because, Canada) and thin planks of wood that our dad has found, somewhere. Perhaps not the most elegant set up, but certainly functional. Like many things in their garden (old feta buckets as planters) practicality and availability supersede beauty, always.
But still, beauty in their garden abounds. There is nothing quite as lovely as seeing a pretty flower turn into a glossy, deep purple eggplant. Or watching bright delicate zucchini blossoms open up and greet the day early in the morning. Or following the gradual transition of vine ripened tomatoes, from earthy green to unbelievable red. And the beans. Searching through the leaves to find beans dangling like earrings from the vine; nature’s gems. Our mother has always been the bean picker in our family. We’re not sure how she assumed that role given that gardening is a joint venture for our parents. But the beans are hers, and she so enjoys walking out with an empty bowl and returning with a pile of fresh fasolakia.
When our girls were little, they would accompany yiayia and they would be responsible for picking the beans off the lower part of the stalk while our mother reached for the beans higher up. We can still picture them; chubby little hands and babbling toddler excitement, and our mom, standing tall and proud, working together to harvest what would contribute to a delicious meal.
There are so many ways to enjoy green beans in Greek cooking. One way is on the stove top, with the green beans cooked alongside potatoes and maybe some zucchini and carrots in a rich tomato and olive oil sauce. You can find the recipe for fasolakia me patates lathera here. This is a delicious vegan meal that showcases the simplicity and rustic nature of Greek food.
Another way to enjoy green beans is as they are prepared here, baked in the oven with chicken and potatoes. A hearty, rich and incredibly flavorful meal that we can’t help but love. We think that if you try it, you’ll love it just as much. Just be sure to serve this meal with some fresh bread (the sauce is made for being sopped up) and feta cheese. This is Greece on a plate, and it is near perfection.
Do I have to pre-cook the chicken and potatoes before placing them in the baking pan?
Technically, no and it certainly would be easier and quicker to simply place all of the ingredients into the pan and bake away. Everything will most definitely cook through. But trust us, or rather, trust our parents. If they say that you need to brown the chicken and the potatoes first, it is for a very good reason, and that reason is flavor. This extra step will add a depth of goodness to your meal that you would not otherwise get, and once you taste it, you’ll know that it was worth the extra steps.
Can I use chicken breasts instead of dark meat?
Yes, although if you do, we do suggest using skin-on and bone-in chicken; both will help retain moisture in your chicken and will give you a more delicious meal. Otherwise, you run the risk of your chicken breast drying out a little bit.
Do I have to blanch the green beans before placing them in the baking pan?
Our parents have a tendency to blanch their green beans because they then freeze them to carry them (and us) through the winter months. Perhaps this is the reason that they also blanch the green beans for this recipe, even if they will be using them immediately. However, when asked, they also said that blanching the green beans ensures that they are as clean as can be, and that they cook up nicely. We figure, it’s not such a big extra step, so we should do as they say. Besides, you’ll have plenty of time as you are browning your chicken and potatoes, right?!
What kind of potatoes should I use in this meal?
You can use any potato you like actually, although our parents tend to prefer yellow-fleshed potatoes for their creamy consistency and slightly sweet taste. We love these potatoes as well, but you can just as easily use red-skinned potatoes or russet potatoes. The key is to have medium to large sized potatoes that you can cut into good sized wedges.
Is tomato sauce the same thing as tomato juice?
No, tomato sauce is thicker than tomato juice and is what you want to use in this recipe. Our parents make their own tomato sauce and that is what we use in most of our recipes. You can make your own sauce too by following their recipe, which we have posted here. If you have no desire to make your own sauce, you can purchase tomato sauce that is either jarred or canned. You can also consider using passata, which is unflavoured and uncooked strained tomatoes.
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