PROVO, Utah, November 18, 2013 — From Minnesota to New Mexico, the faithful green bean casserole is trotted out each year to retain its innocuous yet all important position amongst the Thanksgiving side dishes.
Simple to make and unassuming, this casserole has cemented its place into the holiday spread. Perhaps this is due to the massive marketing campaigns of cream soup companies that print the recipe on the labels of all of the potential ingredients and blast it across interweb cooking sites each holiday season.
Green bean casserole is delicious, having endured the years largely unchanged, and remains a favorite. The general rule of favorites is: Don’t mess with it. Sorry folks, this year we’re going to mess with it.
Interesting to note: Cream sauces existed long before cream soup companies put them into cans. They are simple to make and you control exactly what goes in and what does not. In a day and age when we seek to reduce our consumption of processed ingredients, why not make your green bean casserole from scratch this year? It takes more time, but the end result is revelatory.
The french-fried onions can be made a couple of days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. They will crisp on top while they bake.
From Scratch Green Bean Casserole
1 large onion, sliced into rings
2 cups flour (for onion rings
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
oil for frying
1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned and thick sliced
½ cup butter
1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
8 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and de-stringed if necessary*
In a medium bowl, stir Cajun seasoning into buttermilk. Add onion rings and soak for 10 minutes. Combine 2 c. flour and salt in a large bowl or ziptop bag. Grab handfuls of onion rings from milk mixture shaking off excess milk and drop into flour mix.
Toss flour to cover each batch of onions before adding in the next handful. Gently toss onion rings with your hands until evenly coated. Let the onions rest for 10 minutes to set the coating. Discard excess buttermilk.
While the onions rest, heat cooking oil over medium-high heat in a deep skillet until a little flour sprinkled into the oil sizzles. Carefully put a handful of onion rings into the oil and fry approximately 5 minutes turning over half-way through or until light golden in color.(They will finish browning in the oven.)
Remove with a slotted or wire mesh spoon, draining away excess grease back into the pan of oil and transfer the onions to a stack of paper towels to drain. Continue frying batches of onion rings until all are used.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Steam the green beans until tender. Place steamed beans in a large (3 quart such as a 9 x 13) greased casserole dish.
Melt butter in a large pot and sauté mushrooms over medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir often. The goal is to cook out much of the moisture without browning the mushrooms. Stir in flour all at once.
The mushrooms will clump up in the flour and this is ok. Incorporate all the flour so there is no white powdery flour left in the pan. Whisk in all of the milk, salt, and pepper. Once the sauce is smooth with no lumps, switch to a spoon to scrape the corners of the pot. Raise the temperature to medium and stir constantly until thickened. Pour over green beans in casserole and stir gently to combine.
Sprinkle top with french-fried onions and bake for 30 minutes.
Serves: About 12
*2 (16 ounce) packages of frozen green beans or 4 (14.5 ounce) cans of green beans can be substituted for the fresh green beans.
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