The Green Bean. The String Bean. The Pole Bean. Snap Beans. French Beans or is it Haricots Verts? How and why is this vegetable on the Thanksgiving table? Did you know this is a warm weather plant? It can’t stand that cold! Yet, on our table of gourds, turkeys, cranberries, potatoes, and other fall treats we insist on putting this summer vegetable.
Green Bean Casserole. It’s an American classic. No, really. The green bean casserole was invented in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company. It was marketed as a “quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950’s; canned green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.”
Over the years this dish has evolved and everyone does some twist on it or they stick with the original.
The notion of trying to do this “fresh and unprocessed” for Thanksgiving is a bit of a contradiction as the dish was meant to be from canned goods and farmers markets to grocery stores won’t have fresh green beans this time of year and if they do they are being imported which goes against many of my food philosophies.
Being that I wanted to try to make a “traditional” Thanksgiving I had planned on doing this casserole. Last year I tried something different and made Haricots vests with Cream, Mushrooms & Crisp Bacon. The dish was OK but the cream all settled into the bottom of the bowl and didn’t coat the beans at all and as much as I love bacon it was no substitute for fried onions.
So this year when I got the first issue of The Magnolia Journal and there was a recipe for Green Bean Casserole and it didn’t use any canned goods I was excited to try it. It started with blanching the green beans and setting them aside in a big bowl. Then you make your mushroom and cream sauce. You get it nice and thick and pour it over the green beans. Gently toss and pour into a pan. You try up some onions and put them on top and then you bake it.
Ok. I have to stop you right there. Why? Why do you bake it? Can someone PLEASE explain this to me? If I am cooking the green beans, cooking the sauce, and frying the onions, why not just layer it all into a warmed dish and serve it? Sure the green beans need more than just a quick blanching but sautéing them would actually be a lot easier than blanching.
Well, when it came out of the oven my beautifully fried onions were now more burnt than golden, by green beans were undercooked and almost cold, and the cream sauce was so thick it was clumping to the beans rather than being a luxurious sauce. Oh, and trying to get them out of the pan was a mess because of how long they were. In the instructions it never said anything about cutting them into more manageable pieces.
All in all this recipe was great! I know, it sounds like a disaster and it kinda was. It was great because the solutions were easy for me to identify. It wasn’t about finding a new recipe it was about making tweaks to the cooking method not the ingredients. So next year I am NOT baking this dish! I am going to dry-fry my green beans in my electric wok while the cream sauce is cooking on the stove. I will fry up my onions again in my deep fryer and have them ready to go, and then layer the whole thing together. The best part about this idea is it gets yet one more thing out of the oven while the turkey is roasting and I can have someone else doing it while I am working on other parts of the dinner!