Green Bean Casserole - From Scratch
Nothing rings in the holiday season like making and eating those foods that bring a strong sense of nostalgia. Even if they are "disgusting," we eat them because we always have. And we like them because we always have. Canned cranberry sauce is one example. The ubiquitous Green Bean Casserole is another.
But green bean casserole does not have to be made with grey-green canned beans, canned condensed soup, and greasy canned fried onions. With a little effort, you can make something that is out-of-this-world good! I told my mom I was bringing green-bean casserole to Thanksgiving this year. Her response: "Yuck! Who wants to eat that?!" I told her not to worry, it would be 100% from scratch. I think she was still skeptical until we arrived that morning.
I'm going to take you through the process, component by component: fried onions, mushroom soup, and green beans. You can also prepare all of the components up to 3 days ahead, and assemble the casserole the day of the event. The following three recipes can be used for other preparations, so I hope you can get a lot of use from this post, extending well beyond the holidays. I generally make this in the order I have them listed below.
Also, a word of warning - make a double recipe of the fried onions. You and others in your household mind find yourselves snacking on them, and you will have to make more to top the casserole. Should you have any left-over, they are great on top of mac & cheese, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, meatloaf, etc.
1 onion, cut into thin slices, separated, then cut into 1/2 inch long pieces (or slice into thin rings if you want a different look)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Peanut oil, for frying (you can also use another oil, like safflower)
1. After slicing the onions, soak in the buttermilk for at least
2. While soaking, add your oil to a deep-sided pan, so there is at least 2 to 3 inches. Heat to 375F.
3. In a separate bowl, mix flour and other dry ingredients together.
4. Working in small batches, take a small handful of onions from the buttermilk and toss to coat in the flour mixture. Remove from flour, shaking off excess, and set aside. Repeat until all onions are coated.
5. Again, working in small batches (depending on the size of your frying vessel), add coated onions to the frying oil. Fry until golden, browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. (This time might depend on the size you cut your onions.)
6. Drain on a small-grid cooling rack, set over paper towels.
7. Repeat with remaining coated onions, allowing your oil to come back to 375F between batches.
8. Store in an air-tight container.
This is also a nice way to prepare bean for any cold salad, like niçoise.
2 lbs fresh green beans
2 tsp salt
Large bowl of ice water
1. Trim stem from beans. Cut each bean in half or thirds (depending on size) at a long angle so all pieces are roughly the same size.
2. Boil enough water to cover the beans by a few inches (don't add the beans to the pot yet). Add the salt.
3. When the water is boiling, add the beans and boil for 4 minutes.
4. When time is up, immediately strain the water from the beans and plunge the beans into an ice-water bath to stop cooking.
5. When cool, drain and set aside (or in fridge over night) without a cover to dry off.
This recipe is great on its own, served with a buttered crusty bread. Just reduce the flour by half so it does not thicken as much, and it will be wonderful for anytime you have excess mushrooms.
4oz dried mushrooms (I used a combination of black trumpet, morel, and wood-ear, but any combination will work)
3/4 cup near-boiling water
4 TBS butter
12 oz to 1lb of fresh mushrooms cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces (I used frozen hen-of-the-woods, but any will work if you don't have wild mushrooms. White button mushrooms will not have a very mushroomy flavor, so portabella are preferable. Better yet is to use combination of "exotic" mushrooms from your grocer if they are available.)
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 TBS flour
1/3 tsp nutmeg
1 cup beef broth, preferably homemade or low-sodium if store-bought, warmed
1 cup half-and-half
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste
1. Place dried mushrooms in a heat-proof container and pour the near-boiling water over them to re-hydrate. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes, squeeze to drain. Reserve all soaking liquids.
2. Melt butter in a large sauce pan or deep-sided braising pan. (Size matters here as you want enough room for the mushrooms to release their liquids, but not steam.) Add a little salt half-way through cooking.
3. Add in the diced onion and cook until translucent.
4. Chop the drained dry mushrooms and add to pot. Add garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Sprinkle the flour and nutmeg over the mushrooms mixture. The butter and flour will "tighten up." Cook until it smells slightly toasted, 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the mushroom soaking liquid (make sure to not include any dirt or sand that might have fallen to the bottom if you are using wild mushrooms) and beef broth a little at a time, stirring continuously. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.
7. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until it starts to thicken, about 8-10 minutes.
8. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Finally, we get to put these three together in the casserole! If you make them all on the same day, there is no need to let anything cool except for the green beans. Feel free to make each separately and assemble cool. If the soup is cold when you add it to the oven, remember to slightly increase the cooking time.
Green Been Casserole From Scratch
2 lbs cooked green beans
Cream of Mushroom Soup
1. Pre-heat oven to 475F.
2. Mix the green beans with enough soup to coat the beans, plus a little extra. (There will be a little extra soup.) Add to a 9"x12" (or similar sized) baking pan or casserole dish.
3. Sprinkle a layer of fried onions on top.
4. Bake at 475F for 15 min (more if you start with cold ingredients) until heated through and bubbling.
Enjoy with your friends and family! They will all appreciate the extra time that went into this delicious dish. Make this a favorite for its flavor, and not just nostalgia!