Holiday side dishes, appetizers and baked treats are some of my favorite experiences during the holidays. And I have some special recipes planned to share with you over the next several weeks. First up is the quintessential classic of many holiday tables, green bean casserole. I’m starting with this make-ahead version for a few reasons. First of all, this is a really good one that is traditional but more fresh than the well-known condensed soup version plus you can make this recipe right now and freeze it for up to two months!
This green bean casserole combines fresh green beans and a homemade sauce that is silky, creamy and full of rich flavor. The fried onion topping gets even a bit more depth with fresh breadcrumbs (the printable recipe calls for white bread, but I’ve used an “everything” bagel, and even gluten-free bread with great results). Also, based on your preference, add some slivered almonds or water chestnuts to transform this stand-by into an elegant part of the meal.
The first time I tried this recipe, I was skeptical because the freezer is notorious for dulling flavor and I thought the mushrooms and green beans would become rubbery. But the author of the original recipe had taken steps to ensure this wouldn’t be the case by forgoing the step of blanching the beans, so they will cook to the correct tenderness in the oven without turning grey-green when overcooked. One step that I think is genius is to coat the beans with a thin layer of corn starch which will thicken the liquid expelled by the beans and help create the PERFECT sauce (and the sauce will definitely be perfect). This step is shown here:
The usual canned fried onions will work fine, but I find these packaged fried onions have a more fresh taste (in the produce section of your grocer) :
The sauce is full of rich flavor thanks to six cloves of garlic, some dried thyme and a good dose of pepper. Perfect pairing for the mushrooms and green beans:
Here is your casserole just before freezing:
Why not make two and save one for your Christmas table? Or just have on hand for the perfect side dish to any cozy winter roast.
Cook’s Note: If you don’t want to make this recipe ahead, but prefer to make and eat it the same day, I’ve added directions for doing that at the bottom of the printable recipe.
- 2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups canned fried onions
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 10 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup white wine or cooking wine
- 1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (frozen beans works, don't use canned)
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- Optional: ½ cup slivered almonds or ½ cup chopped water chestnuts
- For the topping: Pulse the bread, butter and salt in a food processor until coarsely ground, about 10 pulses. Combine the bread mixture and onions in a bowl, transfer to a large zip-lock freezer bag, and freeze for up to 2 months.
- For the Casserole: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the wine, broth and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Toss the green beans with the cornstarch in a large bowl and transfer to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Pour the warm mushroom mixture evenly over the beans (do not mix). Let cool completely, cover with plastic wrap, cover with foil, and freeze for up to 2 months.
- To cook and serve: Remove the casserole from the freezer and take away the plastic from the baking dish and replace the foil. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the beans are tender, about 80 minutes, stirring the beans thoroughly and adding almonds or water chestnuts after about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and spread the topping mixture over the beans. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Serve.
- To cook and serve the same day this recipe is prepared: Once the mushroom mixture has been poured over the beans, (do not mix in) cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350F degree oven for 60 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle fried onion mixture over top and bake uncovered an additional 10 minutes. Ready to serve!
- Note: If you're wanting a gluten-free option, use gluten-free bread where the recipe calls for white sandwich bread and instead of flour in the sauce, use cornstarch (start with only 2 tablespoons).
Recipe adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2010.