I wish I could tell you that I grew up with lots of homemade dinners and Holiday meals, but unfortunately I can’t. My family was brought up wholly on pre-fabbed boxed meals, frozen dinners, fast food, canned goods, and processed treats. I didn’t know any better than, but now that I am older and cook for myself, I do the best I can make as much as possible from scratch. That goes for traditional Holiday meals too. We always had green bean casserole on our Holiday tables. Of course, it was made from canned beans and Campbell’s soup… but I would never knock it. I still have a hard time accepting the “from scratch” version as an equally good substitute. Not to say that the homemade recipe isn’t good- it is! I just grew up on the processed casserole so it’s just not the same for me.
I’ve been looking for the closest homemade substitute for processed Green Bean Casserole that I could find. Something with a creamy sauce, simply based on mushrooms, green beans, and French fried onions. No funny business with added veggies, cheese sauce, or varied toppings. This recipe here from Cooks Illustrated is the closest I have come. It uses fresh green beans and baby portobello mushrooms and covers them in a creamy sherry-spiked sauce. I altered the recipe slightly by adding fried onions to the green bean mixture as well as using them alone as the topping (the original calls for no fried onions in the mixture with breadcrumbs and fried onions on top). Ultimately you get a really flavorful, fresh green bean casserole.
And if you find washing and trimming fresh green beans to be as frustrating as I do, then you can easily substitute frozen green beans. I’ve done this before without any problems. Just make sure that they are well-drained before adding them to the sauce. I think next time I might use canned beans… I just can’t let go of the difference it texture between fresh, frozen, and canned. I personally don’t like the crispness of the fresh beans because I am used to the softness of the canned beans in the processed casserole. Just a personal issue I guess. It kind of defeats the point of creating a “from scratch” casserole, but as long as I replace the canned soup, which is my bigger pet-peeve, I’m pleased : )
Green Bean Casserole
- 2 quarts 8 cups water
- 1 Tb table salt
- 1 lb fresh green beans ends snapped and snapped into bite-size pieces
- 8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms
- 1 Tb unsalted butter
- 1 Tb fresh garlic minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt or to taste
- generous grind of fresh black pepper to taste
- 1½ Tb flour
- ¾ cup chicken stock
- 1 Tb dry sherry
- ¾ cup half & half or heavy cream use heavy cream for thicker, creamier sauce
- 1 6 ounces can French fried onions
- Bring the water to boil in a large pot or dutch oven. While it comes to a boil, prep the beans. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the salt and beans to the boiling water. Cover and cook 6 minutes or until crisp-tender and still bright green. (Be sure to cook the beans to your desired level of doneness; from here on they will re-heat but won’t cook further). Drain beans in a colander, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain a bit in the colander again. Place a double layer of paper towels on a baking sheet (or use clean kitchen towel), arrange beans in a single layer to dry, top with a double layer of towels and pat dry. Let continue to dry while finishing.
- Clean the mushrooms; break off and discard stems. Break the mushroom tops into pieces or roughly chop. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stirring often, cook until mushrooms begin to soften and exude their liquid, about 6 minutes.
- Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. A tablespoon at a time at first, add the chicken stock and sherry; bring to a simmer. Add the half & half, simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Stir in cooked beans and half the can of fried onions.
- To bake immediately- Preheat oven to 425°F. Transfer hot bean mixture to a greased baking dish (about the size of a 8″ or 9″ square pan- double recipe to fill a 9″x13″ pan). Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, remove from oven and add the remaining fried onions, return to oven and cook an additional 5 minutes or until fried onions are golden brown.
- To bake later- Transfer hot bean mixture to a greased baking dish (about the size of a 8″ or 9″ square pan- double recipe to fill a 9″x13″ pan). Do NOT top with fried onions yet. Let the dish cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Return to room temperature before baking (leave on counter about 2 hours). Remove plastic wrap. Heat in 425°F oven until hot and bubbly, about 20-30 minutes. Add topping and bake for another 5 minutes or until fried onions are golden brown.