Thursday, November 15, 2012

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Feast : Green Bean Casserole #Recipe

The original Green Bean Casserole recipe was created by an employee of the Campbell Soup Company called Dorcas Reilly in 1955. The recipe consisted of Canned Green Beans, Canned Cream of Mushroom Soup, and Canned Fried Onions. What foodies like me often forget is that the era of the New Frontier celebrated convenience and new technology; it was a period where doing without (as was the case with the Depression and the War) was in the past. World War II, and in particular the need to feed troops in two theatres of war, resulted in some technological breakthroughs in the culinary world. One of them was the mass production, and subsequent consumption, of anything canned. The post war 1950's was a period of doing things the new modern American way! And the results were poodle skirts, the Edsel, and green bean casserole. The original recipe for Green Bean Casserole now has a place of honor in the National Inventors Hall Of Fame in Akron Ohio. (anyone for a roadtrip?)

Inspired by that original recipe, this twist of the original features fresh ingredients and is made from scratch. This recipe can either be made straight through, or it can be started the day before and finished in the oven on the day of the holiday.

Ingredients :

1 1/2 - 2 pounds frozen cut green beans (use fresh trimmed green beans when in season)
2 Tbs unsalted butter
10 oz sliced baby bella (the little portobella) mushrooms (see variation below)
3 Tbs minced shallots (if shallots are not available, finely diced onion works well)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half (using milk produces a less creamy, but equally delicious result)
1 cup chicken stock (see variation below)
1 tsp soy sauce


Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2 quart baking dish. (If going the “make ahead” route skip this step.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. (Using a larger pot meant less of a temperature drop of the water when the frozen beans where added). Drain and rinse under cold water; allow excess water to drain off in a colander or pat dry with paper towels. Yes, the beans are being blanched. Skipping this step results in a final product in which the beans that are more of a camouflage color rather than green.

Green Bean Casserole 1
Digging In We See Green Beans, Mushroom Slices, And Of Course Those Onions We All Love
In a saucepan over medium heat melt about half of the unsalted butter. Add the sliced mushrooms until they are nicely browned and start to give off their juices. Stir in the minced shallots and cook until softened. Add the rest of the butter now (this butter, along with the juices from the mushrooms and shallots forms the basis for the sauce.) Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir well. (tossing all the flour in at one spot will create lumps, so sprinkle, I'd even go as far as calling this step "dusting")
Slowly stir in the half-and-half, stock and soy sauce. While stirring often, bring the mixture to a low boil. Reduce heat and allow the mixture to simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the green beans. Season to taste (each time I made the dish I seasoned with only pepper and everyone loved it). Pour the entire mixture into the baking dish.

(Up to this point the entire dish can be prepared the day ahead and stored, covered in the refrigerator)
Bake the dish in the preheated 350F oven until the liquid is bubbling, about 20 minutes if going right into the oven, about 30 minutes if you made ahead and its coming from the refrigerator
In honor of Dorcas Reilly sprinkle the top with canned French Fried Onions. They were always the best part of the original recipe and making small onion rings from scratch is too much trouble for Thanksgiving.

Variations : If Baby Bellas are not available, substitute common white champignons (yes, button mushrooms have a cool name).

To really switch things up try a dried mushroom mixture instead of fresh; rehydrate the mushrooms reserving any remaining liquid to replace some of the chicken stock. This variation is uber mushroomy.

Oops Alert! It's a good idea to remove the gills from the mushrooms for appearance purposes. Having made this recipe several times, leaving the gills does add lots of flavor, but give the dish a grey appearance.