This year Thanksgiving was a little different for us. My husband’s extended family is growing, getting married, moving away and branching off into their own families to celebrate the holidays. It’s a natural and inevitable progression that I think all families go through sooner or later. Because of this change, side dishes were shifted and reassigned, and I was asked to make green bean casserole. I’m really embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never actually made green bean casserole. I really like it, but usually I’m more of a dessert kind of girl. I almost always make a pumpkin pie, but then I always end up with a ton of pie left over because southern people just don’t know what to do with it. Pecan pie is the crown jewel of holiday desserts, so instead of eating a whole pie all by my lonesome…I thought this would end up being better for me anyway.
Even though this was my first attempt, I was determined to make it without using one of those red and white cans of grey, gelatinous goo they call ‘cream of mushroom soup.’ I just could not bring myself to use that stuff, and as it happens, there is another way! It’s not hard to do, and it tastes amazing! It takes a standard side dish that is included in everyone’s holiday menu, and it just sends it right over the edge. It is so delish! If you can make what’s called a béchamel, you can make any kind of cream of whatever soup you can imagine…and the flavor is so incredible. You make a béchamel (or white sauce) by melting butter, sauteing onions until soft, then adding flour to make a roux, or a paste. Once you have incorporated your flour into your butter and onions, you let the flour cook for about a minute, then add warm milk. Stir it constantly until it thickens and voila! You have the base of about a thousand recipes!
One of the things that we really want to recover through this blog is the art of cooking from scratch. So many times I think we use the word ‘homemade’ and it might be more accurately described as ‘assembled at home.’ I totally get the convenience of all those boxes, cans and pre-fab food items, but there is undoubtedly a cost associated with them…our health being one, and taste another.
So, if you are not much of a cook but you are wanting to learn, I hope that we can help you on your journey. Maybe you could start with this casserole. There’s a first time for everything…this was my first green bean casserole! We have a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to sharpen our skills…and it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, I forgot to get a picture of the last step, because we were also in charge of the turkey…I’m not gonna lie, I was kind of wigging out about it, and I completely forgot to get that last pic. It was a real adventure, let me tell ya. I’m really excited to share our uniquely southern expression of turkey with y’all as well. 😉 😉 😉 So unfortunately, there’s no picture of those golden brown onions on top of my casserole, but if you have lived in the U.S. for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve seen green bean casserole. It still has French fried onions on top, which I guess is a processed food, but I actually found some that were cooked in palm oil…and it’s the holidays, so embrace the celebration and avoid that stuff the rest of the year!
Here’s to growing our cooking skills, freedom from perfection and the JOY of CELEBRATION! Hallelujah!
…AND, I’m telling y’all, when you bathe your green beans in this béchamel, it will be a revelation…you never knew the humble green bean could be so fancy!
Green Bean Casserole
1/2 stick of butter
finely chopped onion
finely chopped red bell pepper
finely chopped fresh mushrooms-or the canned ones…whatever you have
1/3 cup flour
2 1/2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 cans of green beans (drain off the liquid)
French fried onions
Place your milk in a sauce pan on low heat. You just want your milk to be warm, not hot or boiling. Place another skillet on medium heat and melt your butter. Add the finely chopped onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Saute with a little salt and pepper until all your veggies are soft. Add your flour. You want it to form a kind of paste while stirring constantly. Do this for at least a minute to cook off the flour-y taste. Slowly pour in your warm milk while constantly whisking the liquid into your flour paste. Keep whisking until all the flour is incorporated. You will need to keep whisking until your sauce thickens into a rich, creamy consistency. Once your sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and add your half cup of Parmesan cheese. Stir in the cheese with a whisk and then pour it over your green beans in a casserole dish. Fold your sauce into your green beans until combined, along with 1/2 cup of French fried onions. Pour the rest of your French fried onions on top and bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.
Merry Christmas! ~Shanna