Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Upgraded Green Bean Casserole

Green beans prepared at our house are usually steamed, buttered and sprinkled with lemon juice.

I have never cared for left over green beans.  They are hard to revive to their original fresh and snappy selves.  Kind of like take out french fries with your hamburger.  By the time you get it all home the fries are a pile of limp starch sticks; they're never the same as if you'd stayed and enjoyed your burger and fries at the burger joint.

This year I opted to steam enough green beans for Thanksgiving dinner but instead of left overs the next day I tried a green bean casserole recipe from the November / December 2006 issue of Cook's Illustrated.
In the taste department it's a far cry from the recipe we're all familiar with that we can throw together in our sleep.  This one is definitely worth the extra effort.  I want to clarify here that I certainly don't turn my nose up at the original green bean casserole; I'll eat the whole pan of it if it's plopped down in front of me.

This recipe makes a dish we so love even better.  I will be coming back to this again and again for several reasons.

One, the green beans maintain their bright, verdant color and have the perfect bite to their texture.

Two, the from-scratch mushroom sauce is bursting with fresh mushroom flavor.  It can't even be compared to the salty, gelatinous mushroom soup concentrate we are accustomed to.

Three, is the twist to the french fried onion ring topping.  With the addition of a little bit of white bread crumbs (I used a couple of leftover Parker House Rolls) and butter to the onion rings made for a more sophisticated topping.

Four, and very important to me, is that Lovey really, really liked these.

It halves nicely which is what I did here.  I'm giving you the full recipe below.  If you do half it bake it in a 2-quart (or 8-inch x 8-inch square) baking dish.  The components of the casserole can be prepared ahead of time.

My recommendation?  Go ahead, break from tradition and try this the next time you want to make green bean casserole.  You may just start a new tradition in your household.

Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated November-December 2006 issue
Serves 10-12

For the Topping:
4 slices white sandwich bread
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cups canned fried onions (about 6 ounces)

Tear each slice of bread into quarters and place in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the butter, salt and pepper.  Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses.  (NOTE:  You can prepare the topping ahead of time to this point and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator over night.  The onions will be added right before baking.)  Transfer to a large bowl and toss with onions; set aside.

For the Beans and Sauce
Table salt
2 pounds green beans
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms
3 medium garlic cloves (about 1 Tbsp.)
Ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1-1.2 cups heavy cream

Mise en place:
  • rinse beans, trim ends and cut in half; set aside
  • pop stems off mushrooms, wipe mushrooms clean and break into half-inch pieces (you can  also dice them to half-inch pieces)
  • finely mince the cloves of garlic
  • measure out flour
  • measure out chicken broth
  • measure out heavy cream
  • adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 °.
  • fill a large bowl with ice water
  • line a baking sheet with paper towels
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven.  Add 2 Tbsp. salt and beans.  Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.  Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking.  Spread beans on paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Add butter to now-empty Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides.  Add mushrooms, garlic, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in broth and bring to simmer, stirring constantly.  Add cream, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3-1/2 cups, about 12 minutes.(if you are halving this recipe this cooking time will be reduced to about 6 minutes to 1-3/4 cups).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated.  Arrange in even layer in a 3-quart (or 13 by 9-inch) baking dish. (If preparing ahead, cover dish with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for up to 24 hours - then remove plastic wrap, heat casserole in a 425° oven for 10 minutes then add the topping and bake as directed).  If not, sprinkle with topping and bake until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes.  Serve immediately. 

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