Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is a holiday staple. Savory, creamy and crunchy all at once. And in theory, you’re even consuming a vegetable among all of the carb-y deliciousness of mashed potatoes and stuffing. But if cans of cream of mushroom soup and green beans have been the main ingredients in the casseroles of Thanksgivings past, it’s time to take things up a notch and make the classic Thanksgiving dish from scratch this year.

(Don’t worry – those crispy fried onions on top? They still make the cut.)

Green Bean Casserole

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 lb crimini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb frozen green beans
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
  • Crispy fried onions

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a large baking dish and set aside.
  • Next, do yourself a favor and prepare your mise en place. Basically this is a fancy French term for “everything in place.” As in, dice the onion and bell pepper and chop up the mushrooms so everything is ready to go.
  • Next, melt two tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Sautee the onions until they are softened and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Toss in the bell pepper and mushrooms and stir everything together.Let the veggies cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Next, cook the green beans according to the instructions on the package. (I prefer the stovetop method, but if you want to microwave them, no judgment here).
  • Once they are cooked, add the green beans to a bowl of ice water. This will prevent them from continuing to cook and prevents mushiness.While the green beans are cooling off, grate the cheeses. Sample accordingly. Mmmmm. Gruyere.
  • Drain the green beans and add them to the rest of the veggies, mixing to combine. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to a large saucepan over medium heat. Want to save yourself from doing more dishes? Use the same saucepan used to cook the green beans.
  • Once the butter has melted, add ¼ cup flour and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to turn golden brown. Congratulations – you just made a roux. (Hint: a roux is also the key to delicious turkey gravy – it’s essentially a thickening agent).
  • Add the milk in batches and continue to whisk. This part requires a little muscle and a lot of patience, but it will result in a delicious, creamy sauce. Also known as a béchamel. This is the foundation for most creamy sauces (and the basis for the most decadent macaroni and cheese you will ever indulge in… but that’s a recipe for a different day).
  • Add a little salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Then stir in most of the cheeses, reserving a little for later. Taste. Swoon.
  • Pour the cheese sauce into the veggie mixture and toss to combine thoroughly.
  • Add the veggie mixture to the baking dish. Top with the remaining cheeses.
  • Now it’s time for the finishing touch – the crispy fried onions. I love the Trader Joe’s brand, but you really can’t go wrong here.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 375. Remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional 10-20 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  • You can also make the green bean casserole up to one day ahead. Just be sure to bring it to room temperature before baking
  • Serve. Enjoy. Fight your loved ones for the last portion. It’s THAT good.

Notes

The Perfect Roast Turkey

When I first moved to the Midwest eight years ago, I decided to impress my then-boyfriend’s family with a home-cooked holiday dinner, complete with a turkey and all of the trimmings. While I considered myself to be a relatively adept cook, this seemed like a serious challenge and something that I should probably train for. Yes, I said train.

Armed with Google, Epicurious.com and a stack of cookbooks, I researched and tested and prototyped and came up with The Perfect Turkey Recipe.

After spending hours in the kitchen, I’m usually not as enthusiastic about what I’ve made as my guests are, but this time I was. The turkey was incredibly juicy, flavorful and so tender that it practically fell off the bone.The secret? It’s all about the brine. Brining a turkey (or any poultry really – I’ve done it with chicken too and it was fantastic) is essentially submerging the bird in a saltwater mixture overnight. Sometimes fresh herbs and spices are added. Sometimes sugar or other sweeteners. If you’re feeling lazy, you can even buy brine mixes from retailers like Williams & Sonoma.

My brine recipe is really simple – salt and water. And that’s it. The night before you plan to cook the bird, take a large pot or bucket and line it with two garbage bags or use a brining bag. Fill up the container/bag with four quarts of water (or more) and 1 cup of kosher salt and stir well to dissolve the salt. Submerge the (already defrosted) turkey in the mixture and let it chill overnight. True story: it was once cold enough outside that I let the turkey brine away outside because there wasn’t room in the fridge.

On Thanksgiving day, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and remove the turkey from the pot/bucket and give it a thorough rinse. Pat dry and rub the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. The next part is key – starting at the cavity, slide your hand between the skin and the breast to loosen the skin without tearing it. Do this on both sides and (don’t laugh) massage each breast with a tablespoon of butter. And by butter, I mean butter. The real deal. No margarine.

Next up, it’s time to add various aromatic herbs and vegetables to the cavity to help flavor the meat (and the drippings which you’ll want to use to make gravy). I usually add a whole yellow onion that I’ve stuck with a few whole cloves, and a bouquet garni (basically a bunch of fresh herbs tied together with kitchen string) consisting of thyme, sage, parsley, bay leaf and, really, whatever else you might have on hand (tip: some grocery stores sell a “poultry” blend of fresh herbs in the produce section – this has everything you’ll need all in one handy package). You could also add carrots, celery, or sliced apples. You really can’t go wrong. Tie the turkey’s legs together using kitchen string to keep all of the goodies inside the cavity.

Now place the turkey in the roasting pan breast down. The juices all run into the breast (thank you, gravity) as the turkey cooks and turn what is usually the driest part of the turkey into tender, delicious turkey bliss. Between the brining and cooking breast down, you will make turkey magic. I promise.

Baste the turkey with two tablespoons of melted butter and roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes has passed, baste with more butter (or pan drippings) and turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast the turkey, basting every 30 minutes, until the thigh registers 165 degrees. Depending on the size of the turkey, this will take about 3-4 hours.

When it’s done, tent the turkey with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least one hour minutes before serving. The turkey, giant beast that it is, will continue to cook during that time.

My husband and I no longer eat meat – including poultry – (we’re pescatarians, which I know sounds so incredibly high maintenance), but I still cook this for our families and it’s always, always a hit.