3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6 strips hickory-smoked bacon + drippings
1/3 cup Creole Seasoning Mix
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 lbs. diced honey ham
1 ham bone
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. sweet basil
1 can chicken broth
4 lbs. green beans
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Frank Davis Vegetable Seasoning to taste
6 cups cooked rice
2 loaves hot sourdough bread

Start cooking by taking a heavy, anodized, aluminum 5-quart Dutch oven and heating the vegetable oil to sizzling. Then drop in the bacon, the Creole Seasoning Mix, and the minced garlic and saute everything together until the seasonings are fully wilted and turn soft to the touch.

Next, drop in the ham bone and the diced honey ham and stir them both into the seasoning vegetables. When the ham pieces begin to show a hint of 'brown' (caramelization) around the edges, stir in the bay leaves and the sweet basil, along with the can of chicken broth. Then reduce the fire to medium and simmer the ingredients in the pot for about 10 minutes to marry the flavors.

At this point, after snipping the stems off the beans, add them to the Dutch oven and meticulously fold them into the pot mix, making sure that each bean is coated with the seasonings. Now sprinkle in the salt, black pepper, and vegetable seasoning, toss again, put the lid on the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 30-40 minutes (or until the beans wilt and turn tender crisp). It is necessary that you check the cooking process every 5 minutes or so to 're-toss' the beans and distribute them in the pot to ensure even cooking. The beans are done when they become tender but not so soft that they fall apart.

When you're ready to eat, fill a soup bowl with about a half-cup of hot, steamed rice and ladle the beans (along with some of the pot liquor and a generous helping of ham) over the top. With a couple slices of hot, buttered sourdough bread and a tall glass of briskly brewed tea, this becomes one of those 'stick-to-your-ribs' meal that you'll fix for your family over and over again.

Chef's Hints

1.) If you can't find the pre-chopped Creole Seasoning Mix at the grocery where you shop, you can make your own by mincing and mixing together onions, celery, bell pepper, parsley, garlic, and green onions in a proportion that suits your individual taste. Usual ratio, however, is 1 cup onions, 3/4 cup celery, 1/2 cup bell pepper, 2 tablespoons parsley, 4 cloves garlic, and 1/3 cup sliced green onions.

2.) Most supermarkets no longer carry hambones, but 'ham stores' (like Logan Farms and Honey Baked) usually keep them for their customers.

3.) Both snap beans and regular green beans can be used in this stew. Just be careful not to select the kind of pole beans with strings in them!

4.) To get the most intense flavor out of the beans, once they're cooked remove from the fire the pot you cooked them in and let them 'fade' into the residual heat. This causes the steam trapped inside the Dutch oven to 'sweat' the beans and the ham, further increasing their delicateness.

5.) They will keep well in the refrigerator for about 6 days and are always better 'the next day.'