Green bean casserole, how do we put this gently? You can be so much more than your (wayward? fondly remembered?) reputation with cream of mushroom soup and canned, fried onion things. (See here and here.) You're customizable, with just the right amount of creaminess, crunch, and mushroom flavor from real mushrooms.
By knowing the key tenets of a good green bean casserole (there are just five), anyone can tailor their casserole how they want it. Follow along right here:
1. The beans:
You can use regular ol' green beans or thinner haricot verts. You'll want about 1 1/2 pounds of beans per casserole, serving 6 to 8. To prep either, trim off the beans' wiry tops, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, blanch until just tender, then shock in ice water. Drain and dry the beans.
2. The crispy topping:
Fried onions or shallots are the classic option—and easy to make! For either, thinly slice 2 cups of shallots or onions, toss with enough flour (seasoned with salt and pepper) so there's a light coating on each piece, fry in vegetable oil until golden brown, and drain on paper towels. For a non-flour fried shallots option, see here.
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You can make and use more or less of the crispy topping based on, well, how much crunch you want. And if you'd like to experiment a bit—and you should—here are some ideas to try instead:
You can use any kind of mushrooms you like, whether that be shiitake, baby bella, cremini, or a mix. You'll want 8 to 12 ounces of mushrooms (depending on how much mushroomy-ness you want) and to thinly slice or coarsely chop them. Melt a good-sized knob or two of butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms until golden brown, season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, then add a clove or two of minced garlic and a touch of fresh nutmeg. Slowly add a splash of white wine (or good vinegar, for a non-alcoholic option) and 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cook for a few minutes, and take the mushrooms off the heat.
4. The creamy component:
If you're going for a more traditional casserole that you want to bake, you can add heavy cream at this point. Make sure there's an equal amount of broth to heavy cream (so if you use 1 cup of broth, you'll want 1 cup of cream). For a dairy-free version, use coconut oil in place of the butter and coconut milk or coconut cream in place of the cream.
If you don't want to bake the casserole, skip the broth and use crème fraîche or full-fat Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of olive oil. In this case, you can add the green beans back to the mushroom mixture, top as you like (see below), skip the baking in the step below, and serve.
5. Add the beans and bake:
Add the beans, if you haven't already, and a small handful of your crispy topping of choice to the mushroom mixture. At this point, you can also add a handful of chopped, fresh herbs like, such as chives or parsley. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and sprinkle with the remainder of your crispy thing. This is another chance to customize your casserole by adding more (yes!) toppings. Add as much or as little as you like. Here are some ideas: