fat free opinions on a food centric life

Green Beans and Chantrelles with Fried Onions

Home Fried Onion Rings
Green beans go way back in my family.  And when I think of them, it's usually not the crispy sauteed with garlic and a few shallots way I routinely fix them now, but something that's a meal in itself:  A big pot of fresh green beans with quartered, unpeeled potatoes, and lots of onions, sauteed in bacon fat, and then stewed slowly until the mixture is somewhere between a soup and a stew. We ate it for dinner, and I can imagine that it most likely was light on my mom's wallet.  It wasn't a favorite, but I wasn't allowed to mention that part because it was food.

I have found a happy medium for dinner now, occasionally.  Especially during the holidays when someone expects "Green Bean Casserole."  You know the casserole I'm talking about, right?  The one developed by the Campbell Soup company in the 1950's  and made with Durkee's fried onions?  Yes, that recipe.

Because my family never ate green beans in a casserole, and we'd never have had our version of beans at a special dinner, I'd never tried green bean casserole until I was well into my adult years.  And when it was my turn to make it for a holiday meal, I did what I normally do — alter the recipe. 

It had to be better if it was made with fresh green beans that still had a hint of crunch to them, didn't it?  And the creaminess had to be able to come from something other than a soup can.  Don't get me wrong.  If you've spent any amount of time reading here, then you know that I was raised eating very simple, wholesome food.  So, I played around with a fresh mushroom saute with caramelized onions, rehydrated mushrooms and used the broth, made a white sauce, added some garlic, but never quite got the flavors to blend well.  It always tasted like greenbeans with sauce on them.

A year ago, I saw a recipe in Saveur that I had to try.  The only problem with it was that I'd have to make crispy fried onions and couldn't imagine doing that on a busy holiday cooking day.  Who comes up with these ideas?  Clearly, someone who doesn't have responsibility for an entire meal.  The only problem is, even though I prepped everything the way the recipe read, I sort of forgot to think about the whole onion frying thing.  Oops.

Since then I've tried the recipe quite a few ways — fried onions and no fried onions, and have found the flavors so nice, that a few shallots works just fine when you're too busy to mess with deep frying.

This year, since we're seriously out of commission due to construction, I'm in charge of green beans for Thanksgiving dinner — and a bunch of other non-turkey items.  I'm going to fry the onions at home first, and store them in an airtight container to assemble the dish after the drive to my sister-in-law's house right before baking time.  I'll have to let you know how it goes since I am anything but the Queen of the Deep Fry.

Have green been casserole, will travel.  Green Bean "Casserole" with Chantrelles

Green Bean Casserole with Chantrelles

3 c. chicken broth
1/2 oz. dried chantrelle mushrooms
salt to taste
1-1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, ends trimmed
olive oil
1-1/4 c. flour
2 small onions, very thinnly  sliced
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1/3 c. heavy cream
cracked pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat chicken broth in the microwave in a large glass measuring cup.  When hot, remove and add the dried chantrelles.  Let soak for at least 20 minutes.  When done, pour through a coffee filter to remove and sediment.  Reserve broth, and coarsely chop mushrooms.  Set both aside.

While the mushrooms are soaking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare an ice bath in an equally large bowl.  When the water comes to a boil, drop the green beans in all at once and cook until just before they're tender, no more than 5 minutes.  Scoop them from the hot water and immediately into the ice bath to stop the cooking.  Add additional ice if necessary.  When completely cool, remove, and drain on a clean towel.  Set aside.

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In a pot with tall sides, pour a good amount of oil — enough to cook small batches of the onions without crowding.  If you have a cooking thermometer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.  Pour 1 cup of the flour into a wide bowl for dipping, and a handfull at a time, dunk the onion slices, pushing them around until they're well coated.  Remove them from the flour and shake off the excess.  Drop them into the hot oil and let bubble and cook until golden brown in color — about 3 minutes.  Remove and place on paper towels to drain.  There should be very little fat on the towel if your oil is heated properly.  Allow oil to reheat before repeating the process until all onions are fried. 

Spray a 3-qt. casserole with oil and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat the butter oil.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c. flour into the skillet, stirring quickly and cooking about 1 minute.  Slowly add the chicken musroom broth, stirring well to avoid lumps of flour.  Bring to a boil and reduce to medium low, simmering and stirring occasionally until it becomes thick, 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the cream and remove from heat.

In the prepared casserole, add half the beans, half the fried onions, half the mushrooms, and half the sauce.  Repeat, but finish with fried onions on top.  Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.

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Notes:

  • I'd recommend this if you were in charge of the beans — period.  You could have some fun with it, and the fried onions are seriously tasty if you make sure the fat is always at the right temp.
  • The first time I made this recipe, I dusted the onions, and fried them in a cast iron skillet.  Not beautiful to look at, but delicious, the flour browning with the onions.  More of a homey look and taste.  That's what happens when I don't read the directions 10 times and am making 10 other dishes, right? 
  • A nice version with much less work is to skip the sliced onions.  Chop some pancetta and saute then remove from the pan.  Mince or slice 1-2 shallots.  Brown them in the oil/butter mixture then add a couple of tablespoons of flour, stirring to cook off flour taste.  Then add the chicken mushroom broth and let thicken.  Then add cream.  When heated, add the green beans, stir, and let simmer to warm through.  Sprinkle pancetta over and serve. Truly tasty.  And yes, bacon is excellent…
  • The layered effect in this version of the recipe allows the onions in the center to soften as the casserole heats in the oven.  The top layer of onions can get really brown, so keep an eye on them.
  • If you want something easier to bite into, then cut the green beans.  We love them long. It does make it difficult to scoop from the baking dish, though.
  • If you actually have any of this left over in any version, it's completely delicious the next day for lunch.  In fact, this makes a meal all by itself if you grew up like I did with a pot of green beans to eat for dinner. 
  • The original recipe can be found on the Saveur site here.

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