It’s always important to remember that there’s a world of difference between irreplaceable and The Best. Something can be irreplaceable to you without necessarily being all that great of a thing. Like your raggedy childhood teddy bear or that special grungy T-Shirt that you refuse to let your spouse throw away. If you’re me, you have at least two dozen such T-Shirts.
Green bean casserole, to me, is irreplaceable. Something about the flavors that those strange canned products create when smashed together just reminds me of my childhood.
That doesn’t mean that I can’t make an objectively better version and leave it up to you whether or not you stray from the traditional Campbell’s path this Thanksgiving.
So this is a green bean casserole made from scratch. And I must say that even if the traditional variety is irreplaceable to me, this variation is damn good.
1) Wash your green beans, trim off the ends, and chop them in half.
2) Dunk the green beans in a pot of boiling, salted water for about 90 seconds. They should turn bright green and be slightly tender. Drain the beans and immediately dunk them in a bowl of salted ice water to stop them from cooking.
3) Slice up mushrooms, de-thaw your pearl onions, mince the garlic and herbs.
4) In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and then add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt.
5) Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms start to break down and release their liquid. Then add garlic, pepper flakes, and herbs. Stir and cook for 30 seconds.
6) Add flour to the pot, stir, and cook for another minute to cook out the flour flavor.
7) Stir in the chicken stock in small batches. Don't just add it all at once. Stir it constantly as you add the stock so it stays creamy and doesn't get lumpy. If it's too thick, add more stock or water. If it's too thin, just simmer for a few minutes until it thickens.
8) Add green beans and pearl onions and stir to combine.
9) Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with Parm, breadcrumbs, and slivered almonds.
10) Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the top is nicely browned.
11) Let cool for a few minutes and serve immediately.
Prepping the ingredients
So even though this dish is from scratch, it’s actually really easy to make. Something that I’m sure the Campbell’s and French’s people don’t want you to know. There’s only two mildly tricky parts.
The first is the green beans. You need to blanch them which should not scare you away. Basically just wash the beans and chop off the tips. I like to use a pair of kitchen shears so I can chop off 5-6 at a time. Then chop all the beans in half.
Dunk them all in salted boiling water for about 90 seconds. They will turn bright green which is what you want. Then immediately drain them and dunk them in some salted ice water.
The boiling water will tender them up a bit and the ice water will shock them and stop the cooking so they are still slightly crunchy.
It’s not hard, but is kind of annoying. It’s worth it though in my opinion.
You’ll also need to slice up some mushrooms and get some pearl onions. I wasn’t sure if the pearl onions would work out but they were maybe my favorite part of the dish!
I just used frozen and defrosted them in the microwave for a minute.
Also mince up a few cloves of garlic and some fresh oregano and/or thyme. Again, this is pretty easy stuff.
The Second Mildly Tricky Part
The next step is making the mushroom gravy base for the dish. Of course, this is the part that you usually get by using a big ass can of cream of mushroom soup.
Like I said, those flavors to me are irreplaceable, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t make something that tastes better.
If that makes sense…
Start by letting your butter melt in a medium-large pot (depending on how much casserole you’re making). Once the butter is melted add the mushrooms along with a pinch of salt.
Let this cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat until the mushrooms start to soften and release their liquid. When that happens, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs.
Cook this for a minute or two and then add your flour to the pan. It will look pretty dry, but just stir it together and you should end up with a mushroom-paste situation. Cook this for about a minute just to cook out some of the flour taste. If it’s really dry, like you can still see flour, then add a bit more butter or a drizzle of olive oil.
You just made a roux.
Or, as I like to call it, a mush-rouxm.
Once you have this roux ready, start slowing adding your chicken stock to the pot, stirring the whole time. Add in in a few batches and stir stir stir.
Two cups should be about right but if it looks too thick, add more obviously. If it looks too thin, that’s not a problem. Just let it simmer for a few minutes and it will thicken up.
Eventually, you’ll end up with this wonderful mushroom gravy that smells amazing.
Ok. That’s the only hard part of the whole deal. And I have full faith that you can do it.
Next, just dump in your onions and green beans and season with salt and pepper. Look how fresh and colorful this is?
Assembling the casserole
Lightly butter a casserole dish and then pile in your green bean mixture. Top it with some Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and slivered almonds.
If you’re addicted to the French’s onions, you can also use those, but I wanted to branch out a bit on the toppings.
Bake this at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The crust should be nice and crispy and you might notice some of the gravy bubbling up.
It’s pretty much done when the crust is lightly browned though.
I was nervous when this won the poll last week because I know that green bean casserole is a serious deal. But I can honestly say that I think I did it justice.
If you’re looking for a from scratch version of the classic then I think this is about as good as it gets!