It can be kind of discouraging to think about the monopoly that the processed food industry has over our holidays. It is no accident that all of our “classic” dishes just happen to be the ones printed on the labels of big-name processed food. Green bean casserole is the perfect example. The same recipe that ends up on countless tables this Thanksgiving calls for a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup, a can of French’s oily processed onions, and cans of green beans. I have nothing against some canned ingredients, but it seems wrong to me that cooking (especially on the holidays!) has become synonymous with can opening.

Let’s change that, shall we? This casserole is the perfect place to start. We’ll use real green beans … real mushrooms in a real sauce … real breadcrumbs and real flour to coat our real onions… It doesn’t take much work and the final dish blows the processed version out of the water.

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Makes 6 side-dish servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 oz white mushrooms
  • 1 2/3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 pound fresh green beans

One – The Crispy Onions

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You know those restaurants that serve crispy, deep-fried onions? These taste just like those… except they have NO oil whatsoever. Here’s how to make them:

  • Preheat the oven to 450º F (yes, that’s really hot).
  • Toast two pieces of whole wheat bread and then pulverize them in a food processor or blender. Add these crumbs to a baking sheet and stick them in the oven while it’s preheating for 3-4 minutes.
  • Cut two 2 yellow onions in half, then slice them into thin half-circles. Set aside 1/4 of one onion for the mushroom soup below.
  • Add the onion slices to a large mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, then transfer to the baking tray and sprinkle with salt.
  • Stick them in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, just until they are on the verge of burning. Remove several times to stir and ensure even coating of the batter.

Two – The Mushroom Soup

  • In a large, oven-safe skillet — cast iron, if you roll like that — heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and throw in that 1/4 of a chopped yellow onion (from above) along with 2 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of sliced white mushrooms and a splash of water. Let this cook down until the mushrooms have reduced significantly and the onions have become translucent.
  • Pour in 1 2/3 cups vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Then add in 1/4 cup of smooth tahini (sesame seed paste) and 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour. Stir until smooth.
  • Finally, add in some herbs. I used 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of thyme, a grate of black pepper, and plenty of salt. Give this 5-10 minutes of additional simmering and feel free to add more broth or water to create a soupy consistency.

Three – The Green Beans

  • Begin boiling a large pot of water while rinsing and cutting the beans into manageable sizes (about 2 inches). You can also trim the ends if they’re too scraggly.
  • Add the beans to the boiling water and just blanch them – boil for no more than 5 minutes
  • Finally, drain through a colander and rinse with cold water.

Four – The Finish

  • Add all the beans right into the skillet with the mushroom soup and toss to coat.
  • Remove the onions from the oven (you didn’t forget about them did you?!) and add about 1/4 of them into the soup as well. Toss the beans, the soup, and the few onions together.
  • Top with the remaining onions, to form a kind of crust.
  • When ready to serve, return to a 375º oven for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and to further crispify the onions

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