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Improvement on green bean casserole?

I'm in charge of making green bean casserole for thanksgiving and our family has always had the traditional recipe off the back of the French's fried onion container. I added some garlic to it last year and everyone liked it, but I was thinking of changing it up a little more. I thought about using fresh green beans instead of canned, but I don't know if that would work with the creamy texture and I'm not sure how they would bake up. Has anyone tried it or does anyone have other suggestions to dress up green bean casserole?

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  1. Fresh green beans and fresh mushrooms. Sautee the mushrooms and make a bechamel sauce fold that all together and top with caramelized shallots.

    1. I made the one from Sara Moulton's cookbook a while back and it was pretty good... basically like Candy says, except it did have some cheese in it to make it more creamy. If I were doing it again, I would make actual fried onion rings to top it... you can't really go wrong with real onion rings!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Katie Nell

        The real onion rings just don't taste as delicious as the French's in this dish.

      2. We tried making that dish with good fresh green beans one year and it wasn't as good. Weird.

        1. Fresh green beans are good, but many prefer the taste and texture of frozen. They are not as firm as fresh, but not as waterlogged as the canned. I like to substitute sour cream in placed of the canned cream of mushroom soup.
          The thought of replacing the friend onions is sacrilege,IMVHO.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kelli2006

            Do you think a combo of sour cream and the cream of mushroom soup would be nice, or a flavor disaster?

            1. re: Kelli2006

              I second the recommendation of frozen green beans.

              1. re: sugarbuzz

                I always wanted to try this recipe but never got around to it: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                1. re: Katie Nell

                  I was also going to recommend this one. I saw him make that with his two guest chefs and I thought it looked really good (as did that shrimp mac & cheese the other guy made).

                  1. re: SarahEats

                    I agree! I think the mac & cheese sounds really good too!

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      Someday soon I think I'll make the shrimp mac & cheese and the green bean casserole for Sunday dinner. I'll let you know how they turn out. :)

                  2. re: Katie Nell

                    I actually made that one last year, but I don't think it was really worth it! Too much work for not a tasty enough effect. (I'm not easily daunted, but it was just kind of disappointing to me)
                    I don't remember brandy or cognac, though-- maybe I left something out!

                2. I couldn't leave well enough alone either but you can't go too far afield with something a lot of people consider sacred.
                  I saute onions, sliced celery and fresh sliced mushrooms in butter. Been using frozen French cut green beans. A can of milk to each 2 cans of condensed mushroom soup to lighten it up. Stick with the canned onion rings. Buy an extra can for the people who cruise through the kitchen to snack on the awful things.
                  No brainer. Make ahead. Cheap - coupons for everything.
                  It's so easy to make so many people happy.

                    1. We recently made the one from the Nov/Dec issue of Cook's Illustrated. It was the first time in many years that I've had this dish, so it's hard to compare, but it was pretty good. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of this dish anyways, so maybe I'm not the best judge :)

                      I definitely liked the home-made mushroom sauce over canned, and the fresh green beans brightened things up. They used a mixture of bread crumbs, butter, S&P, and canned onions for the topping, which was flavorful and had a nice texture

                      If there's interest I can type it up - it's only available to online members (which I am not) on their website, though.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: adampaul

                        If you can post the recipe, I'd appreciate it.

                        1. re: sunshinedrop

                          Here you go:

                          Green Bean Casserole, serves 10-12
                          From "Cooks Illustrated" November & December 2006 issue

                          4 slices white sandwich bread, each torn into quarters
                          2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
                          1/4 tsp. table salt
                          1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
                          3 cups canned fried onions (6 oz, about one can)

                          Beans and Sauce:
                          Table salt
                          2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed, and halved
                          3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
                          1 pound white button mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped clean, and broken into 1/2 inch ieces
                          3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (1 Tbsp)
                          Ground black pepper
                          3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
                          1.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
                          1.5 cups heavy cream

                          1. For the topping: Pulse bread, butter, salt & pepper in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to large bowl and toss with onions; set aside.

                          2. For the beans and sauce: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Fill large bowl with ice water. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add 2 Tbsp. of table salt, and the beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking. Spread beans on paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

                          3. Add butter to now-empty Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms, garlic, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Add cream, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3.5 cups, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

                          4. Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated. Arrange in even layer in 3-quart (or 13x9-inch) baking dish. Sprinkle with topping and bake until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

                          Hope this helps,

                          1. re: adampaul

                            I've made it twice since getting the issue to take to "potluck" style dinners and it always gets raves.

                            1. re: adampaul

                              I have to admit this recipe makes the best version ever. I made it for my mom's last Christmas dinner seven years ago; standing rib roast, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole and New York style Cheesecake.

                              My uncle ate half the casserole himself!

                        2. Trader Joe's sells bagged "fancy" frozen green beans that are more slender and tender than regular green beans but not quite as thin as haricot vert. They work great in a casserole and are very inexpensive and easy to work with.

                          1. I have online access to the Cooks Illustrated recipe archives, and they have an updated version of the green bean casserole... let me know if you'd like me to post it here.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: litchick

                              If you could post the recipe, I'd appreciate it. I think I'm going to come up with my own recipe gleaned from a couple.

                              1. re: sunshinedrop

                                I see adampaul and I had the same idea!


                            2. There was just an article in our local paper with local chefs giving their favorite Thanksgiving recipes. One was the green bean casserole, complete w/ making cream of mushroom soup (with 3 kind of mushrooms, including cremini, can't remember the others and pureeing), making the fried onions, etc. It sounds delicious but so time consuming, especiall at Thanksgiving when you're trying to make so many dishes as it is and this would be like making three dishes for one.

                              1. I made it last year for the first time and didn't tell anyone what it was. They all asked for some to take home. I don't think I've ever had it before but here's what I changed: I used frozen french cut string beans, added sherry, worcestshire and lots of black pepper to the soup and also lots of dried (reconstituted) porcini mushrooms. Suffice it to say, I'm making it again this year.

                                1. My husband loves green bean casserole and I do too, but a couple of years ago I finally said no to those horrible trans-fat laden onions in a can. It took me a while to find a substitute, but earlier this year I found these Indian fried onions at Whole Foods flagship store. So I took frozen green beans and topped it with Amy's Organic Cream of Mushroom soup and the Indian onions. It was fabulous-- still in keeping with the spirit of the dish, but without any fake ingredients. Mr. Colander said it was the best ever, and he's from Wisconsin.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: colander

                                    According to the most recent can (of French's) I bought to make the Cooks Illustrated green bean casserole recipe, the trans fat amount in a 2.8 oz can is 0 g.

                                    1. re: Neuromancer

                                      That is interesting and good to know. I do recommend these Indian fried onions though-- they are more oniony than French's. YMMV.

                                      1. re: colander

                                        I had a very good container of fried shallots from the local Asian market but don't recall a specific brand. Trader Joe's has a seasonally-available cardboard canister of fried onions that has a lot more flavor than French's.

                                  2. We add diced celery for the crunch and substitute cream of celery soup for the mushroom. Given the celery crunch, we only use a small amt of the canned French's fried onion on top. We also use the frozen french cut green beans.

                                    But we prefer Nabisco's Ritz, broccoli cheese casserole.

                                    1. As Alton Brown said on the FN Thanksgiving Show, if you change it and make it "healthier, more gourmet", nobody will eat it.

                                      It sounds crazy, but every time I make this, it disappears. People just love it. I do too.

                                      I agree. It's great just the way it is. Substituting one soup for another works. I only put the onions (the whole can) on top, not in the sauce. Frozen French green beans are much better than canned, which are nasty.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Fleur

                                        i'm using fresh green beans this year, with the canned version of everything else..i add worshstershire sauce, some garlic and s/p...can i steam the greens and put this together the night before? will it go mushy?

                                      2. I typically add some carmelized onions to the old can recipe and some water chestnuts for added crunch. The cheesy fried onions make a nice addition as well.

                                        1. Try a little drizzle of truffle oil over the beans/sauce before topping with onions.

                                          1. Frozen, not fresh. Much better than canned. Thaw and dab with paper towels.

                                            1. I'm fairly certain the best way to improve upon green bean casserole is to not make it at all. I may be alone on this but I find it absolutely vile.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: tcavanau

                                                Never having had the "original" green bean casserole, I can't comment on it's merits or lack there of. I can tell you about a fresh version that I made last week as a trial run for Thanksgiving and It was delicious. It was basically a bechamel sauce with fresh mushrooms, fresh(steamed) green beans and the tried and true canned onion rings. It was truly wonderful. I basically just steamed the beans and made the mushroom sauce, ignored the rest of the recipe, topped it with the canned onions and baked it.