Monday, December 21, 2009

Cheap Bastids Holiday Green Bean Casserole (without cream of anything soup)

Green bean casserole is a tradition at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It seems as though this is another of those dishes that only get made for these holiday feasts.

We all remember those limp green beans in a pyrex dish topped with canned fried onion rings and swimming in some mysterious beige/grey mystery sauce—usually cream of mushroom soup. So I thought I’d try to come up with something with a bit more freshness, flavor and color. Something that hasn’t had all the taste baked out of it. Something with a hint of both spice and texture.

At Thanksgiving, I looked up a bunch of recipes and synthesized several into what follows. I’m going to make it again for Christmas, so I’m going to share it now in case anyone else out there wants to give it a try. Sorry, but there aren’t any photos. (If you make this, take some and send them to me along with what you think of the dish).

Cheap Bastid’s Holiday Green Bean Casserole
4 tbsp butter or margarine
3 tbsp flour
1 ½ tbsp mustard (yellow, Dijon, brown whatever you’ve got on hand)
Salt (a couple of healthy pinches or shakes to taste)
tabasco or hot pepper sauce (to taste put a little kick in it)
1 lb fresh green beans (or fresh frozen)
1 cup milk
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable or some of the liquid from blanching the beans)
1 cup diced onion
1 small can fried onion rings

This is pretty simple to make but it takes a medium skillet, cooking pot and 1 to 1 ½ quart casserole dish so get them out first. (Grease the casserole dish with butter or margarine).

Put about ½ gallon of water into the pot and put it on the stove, burner set to medium-high. Prep the beans while the water is heating. Pinch off the stem end and snap them so that each piece is about 2 inches long. Put in a colander and when done, rinse them off.

By now, the water on the stove should be starting to boil. Dump the beans into the pot, let the pot come back to a boil and then let them cook for about 5 more minutes. Put the colander in the sink and pour the beans into it. Then, using the rinse hose, rinse the beans with cold water to “shock” them and stop the cooking process. (If you’re going to use “bean water” rather than broth, make sure to keep a cup of it before you dump the beans into the colander). Note: if you’re using frozen beans, just dump them into the colander for a few minutes, and rinse them with cold water to let them thaw just a bit.

Now put the skillet on the stove and turn the burner to medium high. You’re going to make a roux. Start by putting the butter or margarine into the skillet and letting it melt. Then add the flour—shaking it around the pan into the melted butter/margarine. Start stirring or whisking this mixture and turn the heat down just a skosh. Keep stirring until the 2 ingredients are blended together and golden yellow in color. Turn heat to medium (6 o’clock on the clock for the dial on an electric stove). Now, add the mustard, salt and Tabasco and stir into the roux. Then it’s time to add the milk and the broth. Stir all this together and let it heat until it just starts to bubble a bit.

Now it’s time to add the diced onions and the beans. Turn the heat off. Then mix everything together. Pour the contents of the skillet into the casserole dish. Taste it! You might want to add a bit of salt or pepper or even more Tabasco or some garlic. Season it to YOUR taste! Open your can of fried onion rings and sprinkle them on top in one thin layer. Cover either with a lid or foil. Put into the oven, preheated to 375 for about 40 minutes. Enjoy!

That’s it. Several steps, but they’re pretty straight-forward, easy steps. This is really tasty! It’s creamy, yet has just a bit of kick thanks to the mustard and Tabasco. And, no cream of whatever soup.

Feel free to play with this a bit. If it looks like the diced onion is more than you’d like, don’t put it all in. I sweated the onions in the melted margarine and then remove them before adding the flour for the roux. You can also add some finely chopped fresh mushrooms. Or try adding some almond slivers or cashews.

What you’ll like is that this has color and flavor rather than blandness and drabness. There’s still some “tooth” left in the beans rather than the usual squishy, school lunch texture. As I mentioned before, I tried this on family at Thanksgiving and they loved it—especially when compared to the “traditional” green bean casserole I made last year using cream of barf soup.

Cheap Bastid Test: How’d this dish do? Well, I got the beans for $.49/lb, the butter was a half-stick for a quarter, a nickel’s worth each of flour and mustard, $.50 for broth (free if you use bean juice), $.20 for onion, a quarter’s worth of milk and $1 for the canned fried onions (at the dollar store! They’re $1 and ounce at the grocery store). Total cost for this casserole that will feed 6 was $2.79 or about $.47 per serving. I love it when food tastes good, is made with just a bit of love and is CHEAP!

And that’s the Cheap Bastid way: Eat Good, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful!

Merry Christmas to All!

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