My wife and I were at a business convention in Las Vegas when I picked a (then) new restaurant at the Venetian called Yardbird. Yardbird had received a nomination for best new restaurant by James Beard in 2012, for its original Miami location. Upon speaking with our waiter I asked, “Besides the fried chicken, what is the best thing on the menu?” He replied without hesitation that it was the green beans. He said it comes on a plate with smoked yogurt with sautéed green beans, cooked in rendered bacon fat and then topped with a toasted almond vinaigrette. We gave it a try and agreed that it was delicious. Upon returning home, I did a little investigation into the smoked yogurt sauce. Turns out it was first invented by Honolulu chef Ed Kenney of Town Restaurant. I’ve pieced together a recipe for you that taste so close, it might even be better!
- 1 qt plain full-fat yogurt thick Greek style or well drained
- 1 cup chipped mixed fruit wood like apple cherry or peach
- 1 tbsp white miso
- 1 ⁄2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Spoon the yogurt into a standard 9x13 or 9x9 casserole dish and spread to cover the bottom of the dish. On an 18x24 sheet pan place two one gallon freezer bags half full of ice. Pat down to make a smooth surface. Place the casserole dish with the yogurt over the ice to keep the yogurt cool. The idea here is not to cook the yogurt, just smoke it.
I use a gas grill for this process. Turn one set of burners on by about a quarter and leave the rest of the grill off. If using a charcoal grill start 4-5 pieces of charcoal and arrange together on one side of the grill. Place the yogurt sitting on ice, opposite of the fire on the grate above the fire. (Never directly on the fire.)
I'm fortunate enough to have a gas grill that has a dedicated smoking compartment. However, you don't need one like mine. You can make an aluminum smoking packet for any type of gas or charcoal grill with a lid. Just place any type of hardwood smoking chips into a self-fashioned square/rectangular piece of aluminum foil and poke a few holes in it. Place the wood chip packet over a lit burner or directly on a small amount of hot coals and close the lid. The grill should not be hot and barely noticeable that it's going, but with plenty of smoke. Smoke the yogurt for about 15-20 minutes.
The yogurt should have an off white tone (slightly highlighted yellow peaks). Taste to see if the yogurt has taken on the smokiness of the wood chips. Remove and take back inside to finish. Add the yogurt and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Toasted Almond Vinaigrette
- 1/3 cup toasted almonds chopped into rough 1/8th-inch pieces
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 small shallot finely minced (about 1 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp chopped herbs parsley, tarragon, or basil work well
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Reserve the almonds for toasting and make the vinaigrette first.
Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk to incorporate.
To toast your roughly chopped almonds:
In a dry skillet over medium high heat, lift and shake the almonds around the pan to evenly toast each side of the almonds. It takes only a few minutes to get the almonds nice and brown, so stick with it to be sure they don't burn. Once the almonds look toasted, pour off into the vinaigrette to cool and incorporate into the dressing. The dressing can be stored until the time just before serving.
Green Beans with Smoked Yogurt and Toasted Almond Vinaigrette
- 3-4 slices of bacon
- 1 lb of blanched green beans preferably thin french, blanched for 5-6 minutes in boiling salted water
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- coarse sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy skillet or pot over medium heat, render the bacon slices slowly. Once the bacon is cooked through and crispy, remove from the skillet, chop and reserve.
While the bacon fat is still hot add the 1 lb of blanched green beans and sauté until slightly charred and cooked through. Add the fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.