I made this dish again this year, and luckily was able to take some better photos. Enjoy!
While I grew up eating my Mom’s green bean casserole (and loved it!), made with canned this and canned that, I knew deep down that it could be better. I also secretly feared presenting something so processed to my French beau. I also couldn’t find fried onions or cream of mushroom soup anywhere. So, I made from-scratch green bean casserole, and it was divine. This was nearly one year ago, and in honor of the looming Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I’d post about it today.
I got into cooking rather recently. Before moving to France six years ago (6!), aside from grilled cheese, pasta and various ready-made just-add-this-or-that dishes, I didn’t do much of anything in the kitchen, aside from eating, of course. When I moved here, I discovered so many things: rabbit, real home-made sauces and vinaigrettes, fresh market vegetables cooked just so, bread, lamb, and so on and so forth. I spent the first few years quietly observing, and finally was able to put what I’d absorbed into action once I was “out on my own,” meaning done being a nanny and actually living a normal life and cooking myself, and not for the kids. The real turning point was meeting my boyfriend.
We met four years ago. In the beginning, I stuck to fail-safe recipes and banked on the fact that he wasn’t much of a gourmet. I made stuffed peppers, he made quiche. I made lasagne, he made grilled chicken. I made pork roast, he made pasta. That was about it. But the magic part was that the more time I spent in the kitchen, the more adventurous I became. I started experimenting with spices, making desserts from scratch, reading food blogs and trying new things. I remember for our first Thanksgiving together, I made pumpkin pie. I actually went to the market and bought a pumpkin, that I baked and gutted and puréed, and made into a pie. He wasn’t sure about the taste, but he was impressed that I’d done it none the less. The next year I made another pumpkin pie, but this time with a sweet caramel base, and home-made crust. I was evolving, and happy to do so.
Last Thanksgiving, I was in full cooking mode, and decided to go all out. I made stuffing with pumpkin, bacon and pecans, two kinds of mashed potatoes, one with roasted fennel and caramelized onions, the other with roasted garlic and fresh rosemary butter, crescent rolls and more pumpkin pie (recipes will be posted!). The star of the meal, despite all of the aforementioned deliciousness, was the green bean casserole. It was just as simple as the one my mom used to make, using all of the same flavors, just replaced with real, fresh ingredients. The best part was making the home-made fried onions, done by mixing a little flour, milk and salt, dipping the onions in and frying them up in a pan. Magic. The result was delicious and gratifying. I hope you’ll follow my suite and try to revisit one of your old ready-made favorites. Why not start with this green bean casserole?
I lb fresh green beans, rinsed and ends snapped off, and patted dry
2 C button mushrooms, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, half roasted, half finely minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 C crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 C milk
Generous serving of salt and pepper
For the fried onions:
2 large onions (or more, of course, depending on how much crunch you like)
1/4 C flour
1/3 C milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 350°. Start by blanching your green beans. Snap the ends off and toss them in a pot with about 2 inches of boiling, salted water in it. Cook them 3-4 minutes, strain and set aside.
For the garlic in this recipe, I love the combination of roasted and “fresh,” but you could use either or. If you’re in a hurry, skip the oven-roasting and place the unpeeled garlic in a small pan with a tiny bit of olive oil over high heat. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes, until the outsides are blackened. Remove from heat and let cool, then just pop the soft, fragrant garlic out of its skin.
Sautée your onions and mushrooms together in a pan with a little bit of butter on medium-high heat, until soft and slightly browned. Stir the milk into the pan with the mushrooms to soak up all the juices and little browned bits. In a large bowl, combine this mixture with the crème fraîche. This is your home-made cream of mushroom soup! Don’t forget to add salt and pepper, to taste.
Next, mix your green beans into your cream mixture and toss it into an oven-safe baking dish. Place them in the oven for about 20 minutes, giving you time to make the French-fried onions.
Last step: make the fried onions! Heat some canola or vegetable oil in a frying pan if you don’t have a deep fat fryer. Make sure to add plenty of oil to the pan (at least 3/4 inch to ensure proper frying). Mix the flour, salt, pepper and milk in a small bowl. You could get fancy and add some cayenne pepper or another spice to the batter, but I decided to keep it classic. Cut the onions into rings, dip them in the batter, toss them in the pan and fry until crisp, about 3-4 minutes per side. Lay them on paper towels as they come out of the pan to limit your grease intake.
That’s it! Arrange your onions on top of your casserole and bake for another 5-10 minutes, checking to make sure your green beans are cooked through. Home-made green bean casserole. It probably takes twice as long to make as the “canned” version, but I promise it will taste 25 times better.