Green Bean Casserole (from scratch)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

One of the most classic holiday dishes is a green bean casserole, usually made with frozen green beans, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup and French's Fried Onions. Of all the times I've tried it at thanksgiving celebrations, I've been sorely disappointed. Often times, the green beans end up turning a gross olive grey color, clearly overcooked and the French's Fried Onions despite its good intentions, ends up covering the whole casserole with a gross chemical taste. So, to avoid these issues, I ended up cooking mine from scratch, and it was the best decision that I made.

Green Bean Casserole from scratch, topped with fried shallots

Much like the classic rendition of the dish, this green bean casserole can be made ahead of time, up to 2 days earlier. On the day of your party, all you have to do is pop it back in the oven to heat to temperature and serve.

Before I placed mine in the oven, I topped the casserole with fried shallots instead of friend fried onions. Fried shallots are often found on top of southeast asian dishes, and as it turns out so easy to make - you can just fry them in the microwave! Say what!? Wouldn't your microwave explode? Nope, the heat will only heat the oil to a high temperature as it starts frying the shallots. The results is crispy shallots as well as amazing shallot flavored oil that you can now cook with. Oh, did I mention that this won't end up sticking up your tiny NY Studio? (I made thanksgiving dinner in a tiny tiny kitchen this year).

Fresh bright green beans. So the first problem to address is the overcooked olive-grey green bean. By using fresh green beans and blanching it, the end result of the dish tasted brighter and the beans had a crunch to it.

Prepped green beans - ends trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
Cook green beans in salted water for about 5 minutes and put it in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking

Mushroom cream sauce. As you're prepping the mushrooms, remember that mushrooms retains a lot of moisture, so if you end up washing it, it's very important that you dry them off properly or else you might end up in a big soggy mess. I actually washed my mushrooms the day before and left it in the fridge. By the next day, the fridge drew out some of the moisture. Another alternative is to wipe down the mushroom with a wet towel to remove dirt, but that's too much work for me.

In addition to button mushrooms, I decided to use a mix of both dried mushrooms and white button mushrooms in the dish. I was also able to use the water that I soaked my dried mushrooms in the mushroom mixture, giving it some extra mushroom flavor.

As you're prepping, soak your dried mushrooms in hot water
Roughly chop the white button mushrooms

Fry Shallots in microwave. I first thinly sliced my shallots into thin rings, you can slice it on a mandoline too if you have one. Then, in a microwaveable bowl, add your shallots, and cover it with vegetable oil. You can use canola oil if you want too, but definitely not olive oil since it will give your shallots an olive taste, also olive oil has a different heating point. 

Place the bowl in the microwave, uncovered, and depending on the power of your microwave, heat up your shallots for 3-4 minutes on high. Please check in on your shallots about every minute. This was my first time doing it, and it actually took me about 5-6 minutes of microwaving time. By minute 4, I got impatient because my shallots still looked unfried, but trust me, as the oil starts boiling, the shallots are frying. I made the mistake of adding another 2 minutes to my microwave without checking in every minute, and I completely overfried my shallots. Needless to say, I had to do another batch, but this was well worth it!

Fry Shallots in Microwave - just be sure to be patient and DON'T OVERFRY - notice my picture on the bottom right...


Green Bean Casserole (from scratch)


2 lb green beans, trim ends and cut into 1.5-2in pieces
1 lb white button mushrooms, cleaned and dried
1 oz dried wild mushrooms
1 quart ice
1 cup hot water

1 lb shallots, peeled
vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or half and half for less calories)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
salt & pepper

1. Blanch green beans. Boil 1 gallon of water with 2 tbsp of kosher salt. As your water is boiling, start prepping your ice water - 1 quart ice and 2 quart water. Add green beans to boiling water, cook until it's tender but still bright green, about 6-7 minutes. Drain water and add to iced water. Make sure it's submerged so it begins cooling down and stops the cooking process.

2. Prep mushrooms. Rehydrate the dried wild mushrooms with 1 cup of hot water. Once rehydrated, squeeze the water out of the mushrooms and give it a rough chop. Reserve the mushroom liquid. Also begin smashing your mushrooms with the flat end of your chef's knife, and then cutting those pieces up into 1/2-1 inch pieces. Smashing the mushroom first will help you quickly chop through all those mushrooms. Don't work too hard on cutting it into even pieces since it will all go into a cream sauce anyway.

3. Fry shallots in microwave. Add thinly sliced shallots in microwaveable bowl, cover in vegetable oil. Heat up on high for about 3-4 minutes, checking every minute and giving it a quick stir. This should take anywhere from 4-6 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave. And if it's starting to turn slight brown, just allow the shallots to sit a few seconds in the oil before nuking it with more time. The hot oil can already start frying the shallots without more heat. Also - before microwaving some more, make sure to stir the shallots a little bit to make sure the bottom isn't frying more than the top (that's happened to me before!)

Once you're done, strain the shallots through a fine-mesh strainer - keeping the hot shallot oil. Place fried shallots on a couple of sheets of paper towels to absorb access oil. You can keep the cooled fried shallots in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks, and keep using the shallot oil to cook with for weeks.

4. Make mushroom sauce. Place a large skillet over medium high heat - add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoon of shallot oil. Add the rehydrated wild mushrooms and white button mushrooms. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid is evaporated. As this cooks, mix 1/2 cup of your mushroom liquid, 1 1/2 cup of chicken stock, half and half/cream, lemon juice and soy sauce together. Add garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add 1/4 cup of flour and cook for another 2 minutes, until the flour is nicely toasted. Then add the liquids to the mushrooms, bring to boil and then allow it to simmer and cook. It should cook for about 6-7 minutes as the flour cooks with the cream, and turn into a thin cake-batter like consistency - just like how condensed soups would be out of the can! Season with salt and pepper to taste.

After cooking down the white button and dried mixed mushrooms, I added flour to make a roux

Once the flour becomes nicely toasted, I added cream and a stock mixture to help it cook into a creamy sauce

The result should give you a "canned cream of mushroom" consistency, just a tad lighter than cake batter

Add your mushroom mixture on top of your green beans, mix and put in the fridge.

5. Prep Green Bean Casserole. Now that you have your cooked fresh green beans and homemade cream of mushroom sauce, it's time to put it together! Make sure to throughly drain your green beans. Then, top with the cream of mushroom sauce and mix together! If you're making this ahead, you can wrap it in foil and let it hang out for 1-2 days before you put it in the oven!

6. Cook in oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you've prepared this in advanced, be sure to take the casserole out of the fridge for 1-2 hours to let it warm up from the fridge temperature so it can be finished off quicker in the oven. If you're popping it in the oven the same day, add the fried shallots and heat uncovered for 30-45 minutes. If you're cooking it from the fridge, leave on the foil and let it heat up for 30 minutes, uncover and add shallots, and heat up for another 15-30 minutes, until hot.

Voila! There you go, a new twist on the classic green bean casserole - and you can even make this 1-2 days ahead of time! All the ingredients are fresh and it tastes so much better for it. Come on, don't your friends and family deserve the best this holiday season?

Green Bean Casserole prepped and ready to pop into the oven!

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