Growing up I thought Mom was a culinary genius when she made green bean casserole for Thanksgiving. The French-style green beans in a creamy sauce with cheese and fried onions – move over Julia Child, here comes Paula! But all that shattered the day I saw her make it. That sad can of green beans plopped in a bowl covered in a can of gelatinous Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, sprinkled with a little cheese and covered with French’s fried onions. I mean I don’t blame her, Campbell’s has been pushing that casserole recipe forever. Wait! What? This year the can says add chopped water chestnuts? Revolutionary. Our family continued to make it this way because it was easy and yes, it was good.
Three years ago I saw an Alton Brown recipe – “Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole”. I was determined to try it and kick the can to the wayside. Now let me preface – this recipe is really good but there is a little mischief involved. For this dish, you basically make your own cream of mushroom soup and add green beans, but where the mischief happens is the blasted “fried” onions. Seriously, this is my third year trying to make them and this my third year being very disappointed; so some traditions shouldn’t change – keep using those tasty French’s fried onions. You’ll see what I mean. By the way, this recipe calls for using a cast iron skillet. If your family is like mine, we have more than 6 people eating, so when it is time to combine the mushroom sauce and green beans, do that step in a casserole dish rather than the skillet.
For the topping:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound frozen green beans
1 gallon water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine.
Coat a sheet pan with nonstick spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Bake in the oven until golden brown, tossing every 10 minutes, for approximately 30 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.
The Mischief: I hate these onions. I mean look at them – they look like burnt worms. I chose to use the canned French’s brand fried onions. I want a pretty topping.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 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. Add the half-and-half and cook until the mixture thickens, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions ( use the hot mess ones, if you skipped that part and used the canned kind, chop a handful up and add them) and all of the green beans.
Top with the remaining (store-bought) onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
So make a pact with the family this year to kick the can and make a favorite even better. Yes, Campbell’s will be pissed and probably send the soup mafia after me for preaching against their régime but I am willing to take the hit for taste. Viva la Revolucion!