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December 25, 2012: Best Green Bean Casserole

December 25, 2012

Green Bean CasseroleThis is one rare dish that wasn’t planned to be included on the blog, but as I was making it, I realized that it would be hard to improve on this recipe, so into the blog it must go!

This recipe has my “first” student Regan all over it. Regan faithfully sends me foodstuffs at Christmas, and it was this year’s Christmas parcel that put this recipe over the top! Regan probably doesn’t realize that she may never top her own best Christmas gift ever, when a couple of years ago I got a beautiful Christmas card from her with a Nativity theme, that announced the upcoming birth of her and her husband’s Max son Mason. The foodstuffs, however, are very, very welcome and they have found their way into many of these recipes on the blog. This year’s parcel from my favorite elf came right on Christmas Eve, just in time for my Christmas Dinner plans. Along with an adorable photo of Mason by the tree, I was treated to dried mushrooms of many varieties, most of which I had never worked with in a recipe and could never afford now.

I love Green Bean Casserole and somehow have associated it with holiday meals, despite that I really don’t remember having it growing up at the holidays. Most people have it as a side dish, but for me it is a main dish, as I love it so.

Green Bean Casserole
Soak about 1/4C. dried mushrooms (I used Regan’s Wild Morels and Chanterelles) in 4-5C. veggie broth for about a half hour. While the mushrooms soak, in 4Qts. lightly salted boiling H2O, add 32Oz. washed and de-stemmed French green beans. Boil beans for NO MORE than three minutes (you want the beans to still have a good green color and plenty of snap) and immediately immerse into cold H2O. Drain well. Slice 2C. “Baby Bella” mushrooms (these are immature Portobello mushrooms: these are tastier, more colorful, and larger than the button mushrooms normally used in this dish.) In a 9″ x 14″ buttered Pyrex dish add the beans and rearrange a bit to get them more compact. Top with mushroom slices. Salt and pepper and sprinkle with French Thyme and Herbs de Provence. Fill casserole with velouté.

Velouté
Bring dried mushrooms and stock to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. While stock is cooking, in a medium pan melt 6 Tblsp. butter, add 6 Tblsp. flour and whisk over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. This will darken slightly but be careful you do not burn it. While still whisking, strain broth into flour/butter. This mixture will thicken rapidly. Add about 4-5C. milk while still whisking. It will thicken more as the milk gets warm over the heat. You want the velouté to be a little on the thin side as cooking it with the baking of the casserole will thicken the velouté further. If needed, add more milk, in small amounts, whisking all the while, to thin. Add lemon zest from a half lemon. Add sprinkles of white pepper, sal de mer, French Thyme and Herbs de Provence. Finish by whisking in 1/2C. Sherry (the real stuff, NOT cooking sherry.) Taste. Correct seasoning. Add to casserole.

In a 325°F oven, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, toast 1/2C. slivered almonds, turning often. Remove almonds when they are a tad underdone, as you will be baking these further in the casserole. Top the casserole with these almonds and about 1 and 1/2C. French Fried Onions. Bake casserole on an upper oven rack at 325°F for 45 minutes.

Using the Baby Bellas was a big improvement for this recipe, adding the sherry and  lemon zest bumped the taste up a bit, but it was Regan’s dried mushrooms that gave  the velouté the bass note and rich tones that I never had before. It should be noted that the almonds and French Thyme came from Regan’s last year’s gift. I hope to return the favor someday and make this dish for Regan, Max and Mason. I promise to make the whole meal worth the wait!

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