Thursday, November 8, 2012

Green bean casserole from scratch

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Thanks to Lynne Hemer of Cook & Be Merry for the beautiful photo

There are two kinds of families when it comes to Thanksgiving.

Some families are willing to experiment. I had one friend who used Thanksgiving as a culinary lab. Every year she made something different. Pumpkin soup yielded to chestnut soup turned into carrot soup. One year the stuffing had sausage, the next year oysters. I thought she was nuts and never understood how her family tolerated it.

Most people, in my experience, need their Thanksgiving tables to be just so. Turkey. Gravy. Mashed potatoes. Cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie. Just the way Mom and Grandma made them. Nothing fancy. No surprises.

The one dish I have to have at Thanksgiving is green bean casserole. I love the creamy sauce wrapped around frenched green beans, the whole thing topped with canned french fried onions. My mom made it the old-fashioned way: canned cream of mushroom soup, frozen frenched green beans, french fried onions. The way it was intended to be. Processed, salty and convenient.

Over the years my tastes have changed. And so has my green bean casserole. Now I do everything from scratch - except for the french fried onions. I probably could fry my own, but I hate the mess of deep-frying. For this one application I can and do live with the canned french fried onions.

I brought this green bean casserole to the Food Bloggers Los Angeles pre-Thanksgiving celebration last weekend. It didn't last long. And, much to my surprise, no one complained about the canned french fried onions.

My secret weapon: Italian porcini bouillon cubes, which give the cream sauce an amazing depth of flavor. Look for them at specialty food stores that carry gourmet Italian ingredients.

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Green bean casserole from scratch (almost)
Fresh green beans, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms in a homemade cream sauce make a much better green bean casserole than the classic 1950's canned soup version - even with the canned french fried onions.
  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound crimini or white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 Italian porcini bouillon cubes
  • 2 cups canned french fried onions, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the green beans and boil rapidly until softened but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool 20 minutes. When the beans are cool enough to handle, pull them apart lengthwise with your fingers (this is called frenching the beans). This step is optional but it helps the green beans meld with the cream sauce, so I recommend taking the time to do it.While the water is coming to a boil and the green beans are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are golden brown and the water from the mushrooms has evaporated completely. Put the green beans, mushrooms and onions into a large mixing bowl.In the same skillet used to cook the onions and mushrooms, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the flour, stirring to make a paste. Cook the paste about 2 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the milk and whisk quickly to dissolve the butter-flour paste - it's important to do this thoroughly or there will be lumps. Crumble the porcini bouillon cubes into the cream sauce and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Pour the cream sauce over the vegetables in the mixing bowl.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.Add 1 cup of the canned french fried onions to the mixing bowl along with the salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Pour the green bean mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Bake the green bean casserole about 30 minutes, until the sauce bubbles up around the edges. Spread the remaining 1 cup of french fried onions on top of the casserole and bake another 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings


Dorothy at ShockinglyDelicious said...

I loved this! Now I have to go get some porcini cubes!

Erika Kerekes said...

Dorothy, in our area, the best place to buy them is Bay Cities on Lincoln Blvd.

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