This casserole, the beloved green bean casserole invented in the Campbell’s Soup corporate test kitchen, is over 50 years old and sorely in need of an update. Sorry, Campbell’s (and Del Monte, and French’s) — as much as I love you, none of y’all are invited to this party.
I will admit to having a true fondness for the casserole, especially the French-fried onion part of the equation, but it’s time for a change. Right now I’m leaning toward something simpler and lighter, like sautéed chard or green beans with shallots. If you're one who likes to stick closer to tradition, I’ve modernized the recipe by using fresh green beans, a simple roux, shiitake mushrooms, and sherry.
For the topping, there are these little sesame stick snacks available in the bulk section of natural food stores. Of course it’s not the same thing, but I feel that it’s a tasty, chemical-free and lower-sodium option that stays pretty faithful to the spirit of the original.
For better or worse, classic green bean casserole was a dish that was absent from my childhood Thanksgiving spreads. I eventually had it for the first time when I was in my late 20s, and to be honest, I didn't have a strong opinion about it. I certainly didn't dislike it (there's something so homey and comforting about it), but I also didn't feel like I'd missed out on many years of green beans casseroles.
This more modern version from Vanessa is a different story entirely. One bite into this dish, and I felt like I needed to make up for all the years I could have been eating this but wasn't. It's rich, creamy, and comforting, without being too heavy or indulgent. And the real treat is the sesame-stick topping. The sticks keep the crunch factor, while also adding a salty balance and a nice, nutty flavor.
1 pound green beans, stem ends trimmed
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Salt and pepper 3/4 cup sesame sticks
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Blanch green beans in salted water for 2 to 3 minutes until crisp and tender, and then drain and set aside.
Warm the milk and broth together in a small saucepan over low heat.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, warm the butter until foamy. Add the onion, mushrooms, thyme, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
Add the flour and lower heat. Stir flour into the vegetables for about a minute, and then gradually whisk in the warmed milk and broth. Whisk until smooth, add sherry, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened.
Toss in the cooked green beans and stir to coat with the sauce. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish, top with sesame sticks, and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
This recipe has been updated — originally published November 2006.