Mean Green

Green bean casserole seems to be a perennial favorite in many homes as a Thanksgiving side dish.  For me, it was always the side dish I passed on, leaving room for more mashed potatoes or stuffing instead.  I really don’t care for canned green beans, and adding canned cream of mushroom soup doesn’t really help that much.  Yet, when we agreed to host Thanksgiving, I knew that meant we should offer green bean casserole.  I couldn’t bring myself to dump a can of soup over a can of green beans.  I know that plenty of people make green bean casserole that way, and that people love it that way, and I don’t judge.  I also just don’t like it, and figured there had to be a better way.

I was right.  It isn’t easier (not much could be easier than using the canned soup and green beans), but it was so much better.  Nice, crisp green beans with pieces of actual mushroom and fresh breaded, baked onions on top.  It really was worth every bit of effort.  I’m hoping that if you’re planning on serving this at a holiday meal later on this year, you’ll consider making it from fresh ingredients.  The onions are a little tricky and you do need to watch them closely to keep them from burning, but other than that, this isn’t too complicated.  If you can’t find fresh green beans, I’d suggest using frozen (anything but canned!) green beans and blanching them following the directions for the fresh ones below so they aren’t frozen anymore, they will heat through when you bake this.

fresh green bean casserole

Fresh Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

for the onion topping:

  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Non-stick cooking spray

for the beans and sauce:

  • 1 C. buttermilk OR 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 2 lbs. fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
  • large bowl of ice water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 20 oz. mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Directions:

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the onions in a large mixing bowl and toss with buttermilk or beaten egg.

Combine the flour, panko and salt in a large bowl.

Remove the onions from the egg or buttermilk and toss in the flour mixture, making sure the onions are evenly coated.

Coat a sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the onions are golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions at least 2 to 3 times during cooking.

Once the onions are done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use.

Turn the oven down to 400 degrees.

Bring a gallon of water and 4 Tbsp. of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan.

Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes.

Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking then drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.

Add the mushrooms, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine.

Cook for 1 minute.

Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute, then decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half.

Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans.

Spread the green bean mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish.

 

Top with the remaining onions, place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes.

Remove and serve immediately.

Makes 12 generous side servings.

Source: modified from Alton Brown

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