The traditional green bean casserole found on many dinner tables on Thanksgiving takes a lot of ridicule. And it’s no wonder, considering that the original recipe calls for canned mushroom soup, canned green beans (although there is a frozen green bean version), and canned fried onions. The resulting casserole, although it has a certain retro comfort food appeal, is not the healthiest, nor is it the tastiest, if what you want to taste are green beans as opposed to sodium.
I’ve created many healthier versions of the casserole, using fresh green beans and healthier sauces — one recipe even uses pureed white beans in the sauce. But it still remained a casserole, and the green beans, while tasting much better, still didn’t shine as much as they deserved. That’s why this year, I’m deconstructing the venerable casserole.
I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the whole “deconstruction” thing, but it’s a perfect way to describe this dish. Essentially, I’ve taken the elements of the casserole: the green beans, mushrooms, sauce, and onion rings (in this case, shallot rings) and let each element stand on its own, allowing you to combine at will. For my own part, I’ve enjoyed sampling each flavor on its own, as well as taking various bites that included a little of all or most of the elements.
I’ve provided two ways to cook the green beans initially — the more traditional steamed method which brings out the wonderful natural flavor of the beans (just be sure to watch them carefully as they can go from too firm to too soft in a matter of seconds.) I’ve also included the option of roasting the green beans before adding to the “casserole” — roasting give the beans a totally different character, both in terms of flavor and texture.
To give you an idea of how they look, the photo above in the casserole dish shows the steamed beans, while this is a photo of the roasted beans:
And this photo shows a portion of steamed beans served in a very frou-frou manner, flanked by its own little bowls of mushrooms sauce and crispy shallot rings — just in case there’s anyone who wants to serve their Thanksgiving dinner in separate courses (!). Probably not the best way to serve a table full of hungry people. (and can you just imagine the pile of dirty dishes???)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Serves 4 to 6