December 2, 2013

This is How We Casserole!

One of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes is green bean casserole, so when Justin and I were developing this year's menu, I was pretty adamant about including it.  Turns out it's really easy to make a dressed up version of the traditional dish.  We used this recipe as a guide, and were on our way!

Instead of using the standard, canned fried onions, we decided to fry up some shallots.  We thinly sliced 4 shallots (which you can do ahead of time, though it made our fridge smell like onions), and they were ready to be fried.  The beauty here is that you don't need to make a batter or coat them in flour.  Just heat a pan with some oil, and drop the shallots in.  Be careful not to drop too many shallots in the pan at once.  They crisp up pretty fast, and you want to be able to pull them all out before they burn.  Once your shallots are fried, you can set them aside while you cook up the rest of the dish.
Bring a big pot of water to a boil, and drop in your green beans or hericot verts, just to blanche them.  Make sure you have an ice water bath ready, so as soon as you drain your beans, dump them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process.

While that's happening, you can whip up your creamy mushroom sauce.  You want about 3/4 lb. of mushrooms.  Just get whatever kind of mushrooms you like, and slice them into bite sized pieces.  For our casserole, we went with shiitakes.  Melt some butter in your pan, and saute your mushrooms.
When you first drop your mushrooms into the pan, season them with pepper.  You'll see the mushrooms first release their liquid, and then reabsorb them.  When they've reabsorbed them, that's when you season them with salt.

Once they cook down, you'll sprinkle them with a couple tablespoons of flour.  Toss them around so the mushrooms are coated.  The flour will start to form a bit of a paste, but this will help to thicken your sauce.  Once the flour has cooked down a bit, add in your vegetable or chicken stock and some heavy cream.  You want a 3 to 1 ratio of stock to cream, so depending on just how saucy you want your casserole to be, you can adjust accordingly.  I don't like my beans to be swimming in sauce, so we stuck with 1 1/2 cups of stock, and 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  This was the perfect amount of sauce for about 1 1/2 lbs. of beans.
Stir everything together and let it simmer until it thickens.  Once your sauce has thickened, you can toss in your beans.  You want to make sure they get evenly coated in the sauce.
Then pour everything into your baking dish.  Make sure you transfer all of the sauce into your dish too.  Top it all with your fried onions, and pop it into the oven for about 15 minutes.
You want the green beans to heat up again, the sauce to be bubbling, and the onions to really crisp up again.  This from-scratch version of green bean casserole doesn't require much more effort than the traditional dish, plus it's a bit healthier since you know exactly what's going into it.  You can pick your mushrooms, and you're not getting all that extra salt or preservatives from the canned mushroom soup and fried onions.  Not to mention, it tastes extremely delicious!

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