My sister sent me a message on Facebook late one night with my food/drink assignments to bring to Mom’s for Thanksgiving: wine and/or beer (no-brainer), homemade beer-cheese bread (thrilled this was on the list) and green bean casserole (are you kidding me)? Green bean casserole – you know the one – canned French green beans, cream of mushroom soup and French fried onion rings. Mega sigh. I guess she had no idea how much I dislike this casserole. Don’t get me wrong, I love green beans if they’re fresh and mushroom soup, when done right, is delicious. I can even live with the onion rings. Just not mixed together into a mushy mess. Ick!
Instead of telling Nancy that there was no way in hell that I was going to make this and I’d bring something else, I decided to rise to the occasion and update this passé standby with something fresher, tastier and much more appealing. First and foremost, fresh green beans topped my ingredient list. Out with the cream of mushroom soup, in with a homemade white sauce with lots of sharp cheddar cheese. And the pièce de résistance: bacon, bacon and more bacon! I decided to keep the onion rings for old-time sake, but next time I make this I will probably use fresh breadcrumbs instead.
- 2 lbs. fresh green beans, ends snapped
- 8 slices thick-sliced bacon (save 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease to use for sauteeing the onion and garlic)
- 1 cup sweet onion, diced small
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
- 1 cup fat free half-and-half
- 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 jar (4 oz.) sliced pimentos, drained
- 1/3 cup Parmesan/Reggiano cheese, grated
- 1 cup French’s French fried onion rings (substitute fresh bread crumbs if you’d prefer)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Blanch green beans for 3-4 minutes in boiling water. Drain and immediately place them in a bowl of cold water with ice to prevent further cooking. Once they have cooled, drain again.
Fry the bacon in a skillet until it is crisp, place on paper towels to remove grease and crumble it once it has cooled. Use one tablespoon of the bacon grease to sauté the onions and garlic (3-4 minutes). Remove from heat.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Slowly add the flour, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Add the milk and half-and-half and stir constantly for a few minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the cheddar cheese, pimentos, garlic, onion, salt, ground pepper and cayenne, and mix well.
Grease a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish (I actually used a disposal cooking pan made by Glad, so did not bother to use any cooking spray, etc.) Place the green beans in the pan and add the bacon pieces.
Gently stir in the sauce, mixing well. It may look like you have too much sauce, but some of it gets absorbed while the casserole is baking.
Top evenly with the Parmesan cheese and lastly the onion rings.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is brown and the casserole is bubbly.
I am happy to say that this was a great hit and was gobbled up quickly. I have a feeling I know what I’ll be assigned next year!
Eat, drink and be merry!