GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE (“beans fit for a queen,” for 6 to 8)

James Oseland writes that “This casserole’s roots can be traced to mid-century America… The version many of us grew up with was invented by the Campbell Soup Company in 1955 and called for a trinity of convenience foods:  canned Durkee or French’s fried onions, Green Giant canned green beans, and Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup.”  The recipe was created at the request of Cecily Brownstone, the Associated Press food editor, who needed it for a story about a dinner served to Iranian Royalty, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi and his wife Queen Soraya, during a visit to the Florida ranch of citrus grower John Snively and his wife May. The Queen was apparently sufficiently enamored of the green bean casserole made with a cream sauce and mushrooms that Brownstone titled her article Beans Fit for an Iranian Queen.  The dish became a classic 1950’s casserole and a Thanksgiving tradition in many parts of the country.  The recipe below is from scratch, not from cans, but the ingredients remain basically unchanged.

3 cups chicken stock

½ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, stemmed

kosher salt to taste

2 pounds green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces

canola oil, for frying

1-1/4 cups flour

2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup heavy cream

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1.   Bring the stock to a boil in a small pot.  Remove from the heat and add the dried mushrooms.  Cover and let soften for about 20 minutes.  Strain and reserve the broth.  Thinly slice the mushrooms and set aside. 

2.   Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the green beans and cook until tender, 6 to 7 minutes.  Chill the beans in an ice bath, drain and pat dry.

3.   Pour oil in a large pot to a depth of 2 inches and heat over medium high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 350*.  Put 1 cup of flour into a bowl.  Working in batches, toss the onions in the flour, shake off the excess, and fry until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and season with salt.

4.   Heat oven to 375*.  Grease an 8 inch square casserole with 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.  Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the remaining flour and cook for 1 minute.  While whisking, pour in the reserved broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.  Whisk in the cream, remove from the heat and add the reserved green beans, half of the fried onions, the reserved mushrooms and salt and pepper. 

5.   Transfer to the prepared casserole, top with the remaining fried onions, and bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.  Serve warm.

from James Oseland, Saveur:  The New Comfort Food

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