Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Green Bean Casserole from Scratch

After a slow buildup, our runner beans and french beans have finally started producing meal-size harvests. Bean picking has become a shared responsibility- Little Bro has decided that he needs to be involved in the harvest, and is getting pretty good at spotting beans amongst the leaves. After a few days away, we picked 250g of medium-sized beans which was enough for a half-size recipe I've had my eye on for a while: Alton Brown's Best Ever Green Bean Casserole.

Green Bean Casserole was something I discovered at a Thanksgiving Dinner while in the US. It wasn't anything fancy- just beans in a creamy sauce with a crunchy topping, but there was something yum about it. I didn't think to get the recipe at the time, and later internet research uncovered about a zillion recipes that involved canned soup. Bleargghh.

A few weeks ago, I had the brilliance of mind to put "green bean casserole from scratch" into Google, and the number one hit was Alton. Ahh, Alton- we spent many happy hours together in Colorado via the Food Network. So I was pretty pleased to finally have enough beans this week to give it a go. And yes, canned soup is not necessary for a very yummy green bean casserole.

Good Eats' Best Ever Green Bean Casserole (slightly modified from original as indicated)

For the topping:

  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced (AB uses 2 onions)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Olive oil (AB uses nonstick cooking spray)

For beans and sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 500g fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1cm lengths (my boys seem to prefer small bits of beans)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (AB uses butter)
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk (AB uses half-and-half, which is a creamy milk/very thin cream)


Preheat the oven to 245 degrees C.

Combine the shallots, flour, panko, and salt in a large baking dish and toss to combine.Drizzle with oil and place the dish on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss 2 to 3 times during cooking. (There were lots of comments about problems with burning, so I checked every 5 minutes) Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees C.

While the shallots are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring 4 litres of water to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the milk. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. It was an unappetising grey, which fortunately is well diluted by the addition of the beans!)

Remove from the heat and stir into 1/4 of the shallots and add the green beans. Top with the remaining shallots. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

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