With the holidays being steeped in tradition and all, it’s tough to break free from the usual menu.
Will people be disappointed if you bring biscuits instead of rolls, cheesecake instead of pie or green bean casserole without — gasp — onion rings on top?
Yes, probably. You could be the one who ruins Thanksgiving, but the heart wants what the heart wants.
Whether you yearn to buck the system or you simply want a different version of green bean casserole, read on. I’m here for you. To prove it, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I think turkey’s for the birds. I don’t care if there’s a turkey at Thanksgiving. That’s the level of upheaval we’re talking about here.
Truth be told, I’m torn. I love all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, canned cream-of-whatever and all. If it’s carby and creamy, I’m in. Or not carby and creamy. I’m in for the whole spread. But when it comes down to me choosing what I’ll make for the big turkey time gathering, it’s mayhem.
By the by, things I am grateful for at Thanksgiving and always: health, good friends and the love of a family that makes great food. Otherwise I’d have to make a lot more dishes than the green bean surprise I said I’d bring. It’s a surprise because I can’t commit. Do I go traditional creamy topped with fried onions, almondine style or scrap green beans altogether and bring broccoli surprise instead? Time will tell.
I’ve made the following recipes when searching for just the right green bean surprise, and they are fantastic. Try them, adapt them, make them yours. Happy Thanksgiving.
Creamy green bean casserole from scratch
Baked “fried” onions: 1 large onion
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
Casserole: 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced into halves or quarters
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
For the onions: Thinly slice the onion. Pour flour in one small bowl, panko, salt, pepper into a medium bowl, and whisk the egg and milk together in another small bowl.
To bread the onion slices, you’ll want to use one hand for dry and one hand for wet. It helps things move a little quicker and easier. First, dip a few slices into the flour. Then into the egg mixture. and finally, give them a nice dunk into the panko and coat them well.
Place onto baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the onions. Bake onions until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Flip them twice during this time. Set them aside.
Reduce oven to 400 degrees. While the onions bake, you can blanch the green beans. Bring a gallon of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain and immediately place into a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain again and set aside.
For the casserole: Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a large 10- to 12-inch ovenproof skillet. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give off some of their moisture — about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir until combined. The flour will soak up all the moisture. Add the chicken broth and simmer for 3 minutes.
Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Stirring occasionally, cook until the mixture is thick — about 10 minutes or maybe more if you prefer a thicker sauce.
Remove from the heat and add 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Give it a nice stir, combining the sauce and beans. Top with remaining onions and bake at 400 degrees until bubbly, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Green bean casserole
2 pounds fresh green beans, ends cut off
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 whole large onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 4-ounce jar sliced pimentos, drained
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Chicken broth, if needed for thinning
Blanch the green beans: drop them into lightly salted boiling water and allow green beans to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain beans once they’re cool, and set aside.
Add bacon pieces to a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon for 2 minutes, then add diced onion and garlic and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bacon is done, but not crisp, and onions are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a separate skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle flour into the pan and whisk immediately to evenly mix it into the butter. Cook for a minute or two, then pour in milk and half-and-half. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, while sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
Add salt, pepper and cayenne, then add the grated cheddar. Stir while cheese melts. If sauce is too thick, splash in some chicken broth as needed. Turn off heat.
Add pimentos to pan, then add bacon/onion mixture. Stir to combine. Pour over green beans and stir gently to combine.
Pour into a baking dish and top with panko crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and panko crumbs are golden.