Nearly everyone loves green bean casserole for its marriage of tangy, earthy mushrooms, creamy, indulgent sauce, bright happy green beans and the decadent crunch of crispy fried onions. Of course, in its usual format, the beans are cooked into mush, then thoroughly drowned in the mushroomy sauce, thus creating the grey, goopy melange that we’ve all come to know. But things don’t have to be this way!
If we break the casserole down into its individual components, we can create something quite elegant. In this deconstructed version, vibrant, crisp-tender green beans are the star, the mushroom sauce is a savory compliment and, each onion provides a distinct, satisfyingly salty crunch.
And this version is quite simple to prepare, even if you’re cooking for a crowd (say, for Thanksgiving). The sauce can be made hours in advance and reheated on the stove or in the microwave just before serving. The beans can be steamed via stovetop or microwave at the very last second. And the onions….while you CAN make them from scratch, I think its perfectly acceptable to buy them canned and heat them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven for a minute or two before serving. The assembled dish will look lovely arranged on a pretty platter with the sauce tucked under a pile of bright beans and a sprinkle of golden onions. While your guests may at first be taken aback….their eyes filled with panic as they search for that familiar, grey mush….I promise they’ll thank you once they take a bite. Its so good in fact, you may decide to make this on non-holidays.
JiT and I are headed to Ohio to visit the inlaws later this week. Since I have a couple of busy nights ahead of me while I prepare my contributions to the feast (brandied cranberry sauce; roasted butternut squash and brussel spouts with crispy crumbled sage and bacon; and cranberry apple pie with buttermilk, honey swirl ice cream), I’m not sure I’ll get another post up. If not, I wish each and every one of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
Green Bean Casserole Deconstructed
Serves 4 (can be doubled or tripled for a crowd)
2 Tbs. butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1 Tbs. cooking sherry
6 ounces button mushrooms, diced
2 Tbs. flour
1 cup beef broth
3 Tbs. half & half
Fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and trimmed, or frozen green beans,
(if available, choose the thin, elegant ones labelled “French” or “Petit”)
1/4 cup canned french fried onions
In a large sautee pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the shallots. Sautee until shallots are tender and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the sherry and cook for a minute or two more. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir contantly for about a minute. Then add the broth, stirring the mixture until all the flour is incorporated. Lower heat and continue to simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes more, stirring occassionally, until sauce reaches desired constistency (should be about the consistency of gravy). Add the half and half and stir for just a minute more until sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauce can be made in several hours in advance and reheated over low heat just before serving.
Just before serving, preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Spread onions on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven to warm. Steam the green beans on the stovetop or in the microwave just until crisp-tender. The beans should still be bright green in color and slightly crisp. Remove from heat. Remove warmed onions from the oven.
To serve, spread sauce evenly on serving platter. Top with green beans. Sprinlke onions evenly over the top. Serve immediately, encouraging guests to take some of each component.