I call these beans “Has Beans”, as in they once were firm and dense, but now they are “has bean” and even more delicious. You are working towards a bean that is charred on the outside and tender to the bite. It will be floppy instead of firm. If you sear them properly they will be tender to eat while retaining a sweet green flavor instead of the vegetal flavor you get from boiling string beans for too long.
Searing can be as simple a technique as roasting for vegetables, but you have to overcome some fears. Like the one you have of using the really high heat your stove top is capable of producing. I have an ancient 70s era Gaffers and Sattler drop in gas top. To get pans really hot I have to let them sit on the burner for a more than just a couple of seconds. And that’s what you need to make these beans. A griddle or flat top will work too. I use my carbon steel wok or cast iron pan because they are such exceptional conductors of heat. So let’s be clear. You don’t want anything to catch on fire, but you do want to see the pan smoking hot.
You need regular string beans for this recipe, not $6/lb haricot verts. String the beans and wash them. Shake off the excess water but don’t worry if a little remains. The water will convert immediately to steam and help cook the beans. I use coconut oil for searing vegetables because it holds up to the high heat of the pan. Using good olive oil would be a waste of money. So line up your ingredients. This is basically stir-frying (without so much stirring) so you need to be prepared. You have coconut oil, beans, salt, soy sauce, a cup of water, a lid for pan.
Heat the pan until it smokes, add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil. Swirl the oil as it melts in the pan to cover the surface. Add the beans and sprinkle salt over them. Don’t crowd the pan. It’s better to cook the beans in two or three batches. Resist the temptation to immediately stir the beans. You want them to sit on the hot pan long enough to get randomly charred. As you see the char happening, stir the beans to expose un-charred area to the heat of the pan. When you have good color over the whole batch and the beans are bright green from being cooked so fast it’s time to work on cooking them through. If you are lucky enough to have good hot burners you may be able to skip the next step, so taste a charred bean and see if it’s already tender. If it is, just add a bit of soy sauce to the pan and stir the beans so that they absorb the flavor. If the beans still need more cooking then continue on the the next step. Add ¼ cup of water and soy sauce to taste to the beans. Cover the pan. Let the steam build up and just soften the charred beans. Remove lid and test a bean. When they are tender to your taste remove them from pan to dish and repeat until all of your beans are cooked. In my house we love these at room temperature. Make more than you need. They are a wonderful snack right out of the refrigerator. You can see that I garnished this batch with roasted slivered almonds (already in the bag from Trader Joe’s). But you can just eat them plain. They’re delicious.