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.