Leave it to the French to take something as humble as chicken and green beans and make it downright extraordinary.

Along with a newfound appreciation of pears, one of the big surprises from my recent adventures in French bistro cooking was how a few well-chosen, decidedly non-fancy ingredients can really elevate something familiar like pan-roasted chicken and green beans.

In addition to leaving the chicken undisturbed for a full four moments so the skin had an opportunity to get extra crispy (!!!), a simple pan sauce of cognac, shallots, cream, salt and pepper gave it such outrageous flavor. It’s the kind of dish you’d pay $25-30 in a restaurant for, and now I know how to replicate it at home for much, much less (woo hoo!).

Confession: When I first saw green beans on the menu, I wasn’t all that excited. I mean I like green beans, but when they’re competing with French onion soup, roasted chicken and a pear tart, I was prepared to tolerate them and nothing more.

But these green beans, crisp-tender and bright green, were unexpectedly delicious with a lemon vinaigrette we shook up in a Mason jar, and I found myself singing their praises to my classmates. The zing from the Dijon and lemon juice, not to mention the punch of the garlic and shallots, enhanced these unassuming beans perfectly.

Needless to say, I’m a fan, and I’m already looking forward to making these as a side dish this summer. When it’s approximately 3,424 degrees in Texas, it’s good to have a few “recipes” like this in your back pocket. I’m guessing this preparation would work equally well for asparagus, broccoli or Bok Choy as well.