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Green bean casserole: Good, bad or ugly? November 17, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I love green beans, and yes, they do play a role in our Thanksgiving celebration: boiled, drained and swirled with butter, or (rarely) sauteed with slivered almonds. No green bean casserole served in this house, with its gloppy soup base and canned green beans. Eeeewww!!! Who could eat a dish like that?!!

Plenty of folks, obviously. Folks who grew up with this casserole and regard it as traditional and comfort food. OFB and I were fortunate enough to escape this “traditional” dish, as we were to avoid sweet potatoes topped with melted marshmallows. (Eeeeewwww!!!!) Plain baked sweet potatoes with butter, salt and pepper are incomparably better.

But returning to that green bean casserole. I was pleasantly surprised to find a customized version yesterday in our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, that looked pretty yummy: not a can of soup in sight. (Check out JeanMarie Brownson’s column, “Updating the Classics,” at www.themorningcall.com, and you’ll also find a fantastic recipe for mashed potatoes with sage, garlic and rosemary. Yum!) Here’s JeanMarie’s recipe. See what you think:

                      Green Bean Casserole 

2 pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 large sweet onion, peeled, halved

1/4 ounce dried mushrooms, such as porcini

2 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons each: butter, flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup fried onion pieces (canned, or bagged in the crouton section of your grocery, or sub crumbled veggie stick snacks)

1. Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans; boil, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water. Refrigerate covered up to a couple of days.

2. Put milk, sweet onion, dried mushrooms, cloves and bay leaves in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer. Remove from heat; steep, about 20 minutes. Strain to capture the milk. Discard the cloves and bay leaves. Finely chop onion and mushrooms.

3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Slowly whisk in the strained milk. Cook and stir until smooth and thick. Add chopped onion and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate covered for up to a couple of days; thin with a little milk when reheating, if needed.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss green beans with sauce. Arrange in a buttered 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake until heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with fried onions; bake 5 minutes more. Serves 8.

Thanks, JeanMarie! Compare this recipe to the “classic” Campbell’s version, included in an ad in the same edition of the paper:

             Green Bean Casserole

2 cans (10 3/4 oz. each) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular, 98% Fat Free or Healthy Request)

1 cup milk

2 tsp. soy sauce

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

8 cups cooked cut green beans

2 2/3 cups French’s French Fried Onions

1. Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 1 1/3 cups onions in 3-qt. casserole.

2. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 min. or until bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir bean mixture. Sprinkle with remaining onions.

3. Bake 5 min. or until onions are golden brown. Makes 12 servings. 

I do have to hand it to Campbell’s, though: This is the first time I’ve ever seen them suggest (actually, imply) using fresh green beans rather than canned or frozen. The photo that accompanies the recipe clearly shows fresh green beans in the casserole. Too bad they can’t ditch the cream of mushroom soup!

So there you have it: One casserole, two ways. Which will you serve this Thanksgiving? And if you prefer another green bean dish for the Thanksgiving table, please share it with us!

                  ‘Til next time,

                                Silence

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