Food Network Magazine (November 2011)
Most of the green bean casseroles we've encountered (99 percent of which have been at Southern potlucks) have been some variation of this:
Combine two cans green beans with one can cream of mushroom soup and a splash of milk in a casserole dish. Top it with canned fried onions. Bake it for an extended period in a casserole dish.
And you know what? It tastes pretty good.
Oh, it doesn't taste at all like actual green beans. And the beans themselves are usually overcooked to the point that they're soggy, stringy and unrecognizable. Still, it's a fine enough casserole.
That casserole? It's like the country cousin to this Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots.
It's as if the classic green bean casserole got a new haircut, started working out, and high-tailed it to the city where it lives in a nice little apartment, happily ever after.
So what sets this casserole apart?
First, there's the matter of the green beans themselves. This dish calls for "fresh string beans or haricot verts." (Confession: Because we were making this as part of a larger meal, we opted to buy prepared haricot verts at the supermarket, already trimmed and washed. They were still fresh, but a bit more convenient for a challenging day of cooking.)
The beans are only briefly steamed before being baked in the casserole, so they stay plump and even keep a slight crispness. They're fully cooked, they're just not overcooked.
In place of canned cream of mushroom, you sauté fresh mushrooms in spices and then add a creamy sauce made primarily of milk and flour. The sauce is rich and flavorful, but not overpowering.
And on top of the dish, there are shallot rings lightly fried in a bit of olive oil. The flavor of the shallots is very good, but we failed to get them as crispy as the canned onions of our youth. This was one area we think this dish could improve -- a method for slightly crispier, crunchier shallot rings.
We loved that this casserole actually tasted like green beans. Sure, there was still the creamy mushroom sauce, but the beans -- fresh and still fairly crisp -- stand up nicely against the other components. You know without a doubt that you're eating green beans, and that they taste great.
Is it more work than the traditional green bean casserole? Yes. But it's totally worth the time.
And if you finish it off with a some crunchy canned onions, well, we won't tell anyone.
Total Time: 1 hr 25 min
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 55 min
Yield: 8 servings
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 6 medium shallots, sliced into rings (about 1 cup)
• 1 1/2 pounds thin fresh string beans or haricots verts, trimmed
• 1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
• 6 large cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
• 3 cups low-fat (1 percent) milk
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• Olive oil cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add 1/4 cup shallots and cook, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining shallots, cooking 1/4 cup at a time. Reserve the oil in the skillet.
Place the green beans in a steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water. Cover and steam until bright green and still crisp, about 3 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved shallot oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid is evaporated and they begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl.
Whisk together the milk and flour until the flour is dissolved. Add the mixture to the skillet and, whisking constantly, bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans, mushroom mixture, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, the parsley, nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon the green bean mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle the top with the crispy shallots and the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake until golden on top and bubbling, about 20 minutes.