Friday, November 29, 2013

Ultimate Green Bean Casserole

When I was asked to bring green bean casserole to Thanksgiving dinner I wasn't thrilled. I'm not a fan of the mushy, soupy, slimy green beans. Then I thought if anyone can come up with a good recipe for green bean casserole it's America's Test Kitchen. If their recipe isn't good than green bean casserole is a lost cause. I was very pleasantly surprised! The beans were crisp, bright green, and had the perfect about of delicious sauce. I would like to drink the mushroom cream sauce or mop it up with a crusty bread. It was that good. I'll be using this recipe from now on!

Green Bean Casserole
Serves 8 to 10

The classic combination of green beans, condensed soup, and canned onions isn’t bad. But for a holiday centered on homemade food, shouldn’t every dish be great? We wanted to upgrade green bean casserole to give it fresh, homemade flavor. Our first tasting determined that we definitely needed to use fresh green beans rather than frozen or canned beans. A preliminary blanching and shocking prepared the beans to finish cooking perfectly in the casserole, enabling them to keep a consistent texture and retain their beautiful green color. For our sauce, we made a mushroom variation of the classic French velouté sauce (chicken broth thickened with a roux made from butter and flour, then finished with
heavy cream). Our biggest challenge was the onion topping. Ultimately we found that the canned onions couldn’t be entirely replaced without sacrificing the level of convenience we thought appropriate to the dish, but we masked their “commercial” flavor with freshly made buttered bread crumbs.

4 slices white sandwich bread (with crusts), each slice torn into quarters
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups canned fried onions (about 6 ounces)
Table salt

2 pounds green beans (fresh), ends trimmed, cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 pound white button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. For the topping: Pulse bread, butter, salt, and pepper in workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to large bowl and toss with onions; set aside.

2. For the beans: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in large pot. Add 2 tablespoons salt and beans. Cook until bright green and slightly crunchy, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain beans and plunge immediately into large bowl filled with ice water to stop cooking. Spread beans out onto paper towel lined baking sheet to drain.

3. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides, about 1 minute. Add onion, garlic, button mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms release their moisture, about 2 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook until all mushrooms are tender and liquid has reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in stock and reduce heat to medium. Stir in cream and simmer gently until sauce has consistency of dense soup, about 15 minutes.

4. Arrange beans in 3-quart gratin dish (or 9X13 pan). Pour mushroom mixture over beans and mix to coat beans evenly. Sprinkle with bread crumb mixture and bake until

top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

All the components of this dish can be cooked ahead of time. The assembled casserole needs only 15 minutes in a 375-degree oven to warm through and brown.

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