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~It's Not Easy Being 60: The Green Bean Casserole~

IMG_8414Newsflash:  The iconic green bean casserole turns 60 years old this year.  Depending upon who you talk turkey to, the subject of "green bean casserole" will garner one of two responses:  a loving look of childlike glee or a loathsome adult eye roll.  In the event you are talking turkey to me, you'll get a unknowing shoulder shrug because the only thing I have in common with the green bean casserole is we were both born in 1955 -- I in a hospital in Palmerton, PA, and, the casserole in a Campbell's Test Kitchen in New Jersey.  I've never made it or tasted it!

A bit about the original green bean casserole:  The classic recipe consisted of five pantry-staple ingredients + "a dash of pepper": canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, canned fried onions, milk and soy sauce (which surprises me because I would have guessed Worcestershire sauce).  It is a true representation of 1950's style American 'cooking from cans and boxes' -- open the cans and/or boxes, mix everything together in one casserole and bake it.

"Ho, Ho, Ho!" ~ The Jolly Green Giant

IMG_8407I'm not here to criticize.  Too many people love the tradition of this iconic casserole on their Thanksgiving table for me to do that, and, I am all about tradition -- while I like green beans in general, I've just always been a Brussels sprouts kinda gal on Thanksgiving.  That said, if I'm going to make and taste a green bean casserole for the first time, I'll pass on all the canned stuff and create a version that, who knows, might become a tradition on my own Turkey Day table.  

While the goal is to keep it simple, it goes without saying, I'm starting with fresh green beans -- blanched until crunch-tender.  After that, just enough bacon (pancetta would be nice too) to add a bit of smoky flavor, sauteed with earthy mushrooms and the mandatory onion.  The sauteed mushroom mixture combined with a creamy, nutmeg-kissed Gruyere cheese sauce, made with real cream, replaces the "cream of mushroom soup" -- a nice touch, don't you think? 

IMG_82802  pounds fresh, whole green beans, ends trimmed and discarded, remaining lengths cut in half (Note:  When in comes to green beans, I prefer them cut into user-friendly lengths, as I find shoving 4" long green beans into my mouth most unladylike.)

4  strips thick-sliced bacon, cut into small 1/4" strips, 1/3 pound of bacon

2  cups medium-diced white mushroom caps

1  cup small-diced white yellow or sweet onion

4  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  cup whole milk

2  cups heavy or whipping cream

2  teaspoons sea salt

freshly-ground and coarsely-groun peppercorn blend, to taste (Note:  I use 60 grinds.)

2  cups finely-grated Gruyere cheese

1  cup panko breadcrumbs, for topping casserole

IMG_8283 IMG_8289~ Step 1.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.  Add 2  teaspoons sea salt and the green beans.  When water returns to a boil,  adjust heat to a simmer and cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat, drain into a colander and run cold water through beans, tossing them in the colander, until cooled to room temp. Set aside to drain thoroughly.

IMG_8297 IMG_8302 IMG_8303 IMG_8307 IMG_8312~Step 2.  In the same chef's pan, place the bacon pieces over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan and continue to saute, using a spatula to keep the mixture moving around in the pan, until the bacon, mushroom and onions are nicely golden around their edges, about 8-9 minutes.  

Remove from heat, transfer mixture to a bowl or a plate and set aside.

IMG_8333~ Step 3.  In the same chef's pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  

IMG_8326Add the flour and the nutmeg to the butter. Using a whisk or a large spoon, cook until all of the flour is thoroughly incorporated, smooth and foamy, about 1 minute.

IMG_8336 IMG_8340 IMG_8344 IMG_8346~Step 4.  Pour the milk into the pan, all at once, and, stir or whisk constantly until thickened, less than 1 minute.  Add the cream, all at once, followed by the salt and freshly-ground peppercorn blend.  Continue to stir or whisk constantly until the cream is ever-so-gently simmering and nicely thickened, about 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off but leave the chef's pan remain on the hot stovetop.  Add the grated cheese and stir until the mixture is thick and smooth.

IMG_8367 IMG_8370 IMG_8375~ Step 5.  Thoroughly stir in the mushroom mixture followed by the green beans.  Lightly spritz a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_8388 IMG_8379~ Step 6. Transfer green bean mixture to prepared casserole.  Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs over the top.

Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 28-30 minutes. Casserole will be bubbling around the edges and panko will be golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 15-20 minutes, to set up a bit, prior to serving.

It's never easy being a generic green bean casserole.

IMG_8402But, if updated & made with high-quality ingredients...

IMG_8416... it can be a heart-warming reminder of kinder, gentler times!

IMG_8433It's Not Easy Being 60:  The Green Bean Casserole:  Recipe yields 12-16 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/deep sides; colander; large spatula; whisk or large spoon; 13" x 9" x 2", 3-quart casserole

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07b1262a970dCook's Note:  In the event you are new to roasting a turkey for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, click into Category 15 or 18 of Kitchen Encounters to learn everything I know, plus all sorts of tips and advice, about ~ Roasting Poultry and Making Gravy Too:  My Own Techniques and Oration (the long and not so short of it) ~.  Gobble, gobble & Happy Thanksgiving!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015 


Tom! Hooray -- I received this notification immediately, so, something must have gone wrong with the last try. We must make a point of meeting or at least chatting. At present, I have a house full of grown kids for the Thanksgiving weekend. After some R&R I will be in touch!

Ergohumhead is Tom Hesketh
2267 Autumnwood Drive
Cell: 814-883-8953
Email: [email protected]

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