Thanksgiving: Green beans. November 23, 2009Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
Tags: thanksgiving, Thanksgiving green bean recipes, Thanksgiving recipes
Silence Dogood here. Green beans are a traditional Thanksgiving side dish—like turkey, pumpkins, corn, and potatoes, a native New World crop and therefore appropriate to the day. (I’ll be talking about another regional Thanksgiving tradition, dried corn, tomorrow, and tackling the whole sweet potato issue on Wednesday, leading up to desserts for the day on Thursday, and frugal tricks with Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday. Stay tuned!)
Getting back to green beans, we always had them at Thanksgiving when I was growing up, but Mama served them simply boiled, topped with butter, salt, white pepper, and thinly sliced almonds. I had never heard of the apparently ubiquitous green bean casserole until I moved to Pennsylvania, and have still never tasted one, though that may change this Thanksgiving, since we’ll be celebrating with our neighbors.
I still love green beans the way my mama made them, and I still think “classic” green bean casserole sounds like a bad idea. Not because of the crunchy, oily “French fried” onion topping—hey, both our friend Ben and I love a good, crispy-crunchy, greasy onion ring, bring it on!—but because of that can of cream of mushroom soup, the milk, and the soy sauce. Soup, milk, and soy sauce with green beans? Good grief.
In case anyone besides me has never made a green bean casserole but might want to, here are two versions, from those who should know, Campbell’s, maker of the cream of mushroom soup, and Birds Eye, provider of frozen cut green beans. You’ll note that the amounts of each ingredient differ slightly, even allowing for the 12-serving Campbell’s recipe versus the 4-serving Birds Eye version, but the concept is definitely the same. I’ll depart from the original recipes only in eliminating the brand names.
Classic Green Bean Casserole
This is the Birds Eye version.
1 10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. soy sauce
ground black pepper
1 1-pound bag frozen cut green beans, thawed and drained
1 1/3 cups crispy French-fried onions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In an oven-safe casserole dish, mix soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans, and 2/3 cup onions until well combined. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle remaining onions on top and bake an additional 5 minutes until crispy. Serves 4.
Green Bean Casserole
Here’s the official Campbell’s version.
2 10 3/4-ounce cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
8 cups cooked cut green beans
1 6-ounce can (2 2/3 cups) French-fried onions
Stir soup, soy sauce, black pepper, beans, and 1 1/3 cups onions in a 3-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir. Top with remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes more. Tip: Toast 1/2 cup sliced almonds. Add with remaining onions. Serves 12.
Well, I guess Campbell’s was trying to make a gesture with the almond tip, but still. I remember reading a “gentrified” version of green bean casserole in my favorite cooking magazine, Cook’s Country, but I can’t find the issue, nor could I find the recipe online. Sigh. If I do, I’ll revise this post and include it. Once again, stay tuned.
Meanwhile, there just have to be other options for serving green beans on Thanksgiving. Here’s one I found in Parade magazine. (I love that it’s called “String Beans,” when mercifully most people now wouldn’t even know what that means. Back in the day, green beans had tough, fibrous strings running down the side with the line on it. Before you could cook them, you had not only to snap off the sharp, rough ends—thus “snap beans”—but also to pull off the “strings.” Modern varieties have somehow managed to do away with the tough strings, so now you only have to cut or snap off the ends.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon each finely chopped fresh oregano and flat-leaf parsley
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
Crumbled feta cheese
In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and clear, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook briefly until soft and golden brown. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, and about 1 cup water. Stir in the green beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until beans are just tender, about 12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon onto a warm platter and top with feta cheese. Serves 8.
Actually, this sounds good. In fact, it sounds like it might make a great topping for pasta or rice, especially if you sauteed some sliced mushrooms with the onion and garlic. But, whoa, it certainly doesn’t sound like Thanksgiving dinner, at least not to me. Yes, tomatoes are also New World plants that should perhaps be given a place, along with bell and hot peppers, on the Thanksgiving menu. But in the salad (and perhaps the sweet potatoes—we’ll be getting to that), not the green beans, thanks very much.
So, okay, what green bean dish should you be serving with Thanksgiving dinner? I still love my mama’s buttered green beans with sliced almonds. But when push comes to shove, what I usually make is a simple dish of boiled green beans (cooked just long enough to be tender, but still bright green, drained, and topped with sauteed sliced mushrooms in browned butter with salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) and lemon pepper. Yum!!! Easy and oh-so-good.
Do you have a favorite green bean recipe? If so, I’d love to hear about it!
‘Til next time,