Saturday, November 25, 2006

Green bean casserole with fried shallot topping

Green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving classic made from canned or frozen green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, and canned fried onions; it's good, but rather lacking in fresh ingredients. This Thanksgiving, we made a much fresher and more homemade-tasting version (based on Wilson 2006) that used fresh green beans, a sauce made from cream and chicken stock, and a topping of breadcrumbs mixed with sliced fried shallots. The green beans were toothy and flavorful, the sauce was richer than the standard soup-based sauce, and the topping was less processed-tasting. It was the hit of our Thanksgiving dinner, and we'll definitely be making it for future years' Thanksgivings.

If you're looking for an improved version of the standard Thanksgiving green bean casserole, this is the recipe for you. Thus, it's this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

Green beans
2 pounds fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1-2" pieces1
2 tablespoons salt

4 slices of dry artisan white bread (e.g., ciabatta), ground into breadcrumbs (~1 cup; food processors do this well)
2 tablespoons butter, softened or cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups sliced fried shallots (the commercially prepared kind)

2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed with a garlic press
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

This recipe entails three separate preparations (the beans, the sauce, and the topping) which must be combined at the end. This is easier than it sounds, as none of these preparations is difficult, and they can be worked on in parallel.

Cooking the green beans:
1. Bring a large pot of water (~4 quarts) to a boil and add the 2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Add the green beans and cook for 6 minutes, or until they're tender-crisp.
3. Remove the green beans from the boiling water and add to a bowl full of cold water (to stop the beans from cooking). Once the beans are cool (which may require replacing the water once) return them to a strainer.

Making the topping:
1. Process the breadcrumbs, butter, salt, and pepper in a food processor until well combined (~15 seconds).
2. Empty into a bowl and mix in the shallots.

Making the sauce:
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden and fragrant.
3. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour turns slightly golden as well.
4. Add the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until it starts to bubble.
5. Add the cream and simmer, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes; reduce the heat if necessary.
6. Mix in the salt and pepper and then hold over very low heat until ready to use.

Combining and baking:
0. Preheat your oven to 425F.
1. Mix the green beans and sauce together, and spread out in a 9x13" baking dish (we just mixed the green beans and sauce in the dish). Sprinkle the topping evenly over the beans and sauce.
2. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown.


The original version of this recipe calls for fried onions instead of shallots; we had fried shallots on hand (thanks to our local Asian market) and decided to give them a try. The shallots were delicious, but the recipe should be just as good with fried onions (the original recipe calls for 3 cups of fried onions instead of 1 1/2 cups of shallots).

This casserole reheats well in the oven - we reheated it (in the original pan) for 15-20 minutes at 300F, and were surprised to find the topping still crispy and crunchy.


Wilson, S. 2006. Upgrading Green Bean Casserole. Cooks Illustrated 83: November/December. pp8-9.

1 If possible, enlist a friend to help you wash, trim, and cut the green beans - it takes a while.

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