Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Green Bean Casserole

The holiday feast seasons have long had the tradition that the table must hold a dish of green beans in a thick, mushroomy gravy, usually built from a can of your favorite brand of cream of mushroom soup, undiluted.

Unfortunately for some of us, there's entirely too much sodium in those canned soups -- even the "reduced sodium" varieties. Therefore, we have to make the great sacrifice, and start from scratch. Sigh. (wink, wink)

Scratch is not exactly easy to find, on the shelves around here. I have a friend who admits that, when she was newly married, she had to go to the manager of the neighborhood market to ask where he stocked the scratch.... true story. She's a magnificent cook, today.

But I digress.

So anyway, my green beans this year started in Pop's garden. You don't have to go that far. If you don't have a garden large enough to accommodate a few bean poles, just get a bag or two of frozen green beans cut in your favorite style. The Bat likes julienne, I like mine hearty and thick -- something to do with squeaky teeth if they're slightly undercooked, I think. Anyway, I take what Pop gives us, and he seems to favor the lighter effort of just chopping off their stringy heads, blanching them & freezing them whole (or mostly so).

So, from the fresh green beans from the garden, the next stage is, I suppose, to go to the store and stock up on the rest of the stuff... unless you're an even more ambitious gardener than Pop is.

(Also, if you don't like the sodium content of the pre-fab fried onion stuff in a can, you might opt for making your own onion rings, by slicing a sweet onion thinly and separating the rings, dipping them first into buttermilk or soured milk, then into your favorite bread crumb mix, and last, gently arranging them atop the casserole... I found some unbreaded, crisp onion bits at Aldi last year, & have used them often, since. Those, though, you really only want to sprinkle on top of your dish and pop into the oven for a maximum of ten minutes, or you'll have lumps of coal for the kiddies...)

And from there, it's straight prep and eating.

No Soup Green Bean Casserole

1 Tbs butter
1 lb mushrooms, sliced (if you use button mushrooms, get them as they're slightly darkening, for fuller flavor)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped finely (minced)
1 tsp ground thyme
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbs celery leaf (fresh is better... if you're chopping celery for, say, turkey stuffing, hold out half the leaves from there & add them here)
ground pepper to taste
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c. milk
your choice of onion topping

Over medium-high heat, spray a large pan (I use a wok) with your preferred non-stick spray,* drop in & melt butter, then stir in mushrooms, onion, thyme, salt, celery, and pepper. Stir regularly until mushrooms produce lots of liquid.

Sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly, cook for about one minute.

Gradually add in milk, stirring constantly until well-mixed with flour. It will begin to thicken.

Add in green beans, bring to simmer. Transfer all this to an oven-safe dish. Top with onions to your heart's delight.

Pop in hot oven (400ºF) for five to ten minutes, until onions are crisped nicely. Serve hot....

* Many cooking supply stores carry empty spray containers designed to be filled with your own supply of oil for just this purpose. The Bat & I use extra virgin olive oil.

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