I’m a little obsessed with side dishes. Many are the times I’ve been so enraptured by the crisped cool perfection of a pepper-flecked cole slaw or the light-as-air crust enrobing circles of sweet onion that I’ve barely noticed the “main dish.” I’ve written entire articles on restaurants and meals where more than half of the 600 or so words that should be describing the general ambiance, the history of the place, its food philosophy and so on, are instead devoted to the best potato salad (or whatever it was sitting on the side of my plate) that I’ve ever had.
And there are a few favorite sides I could eat alone as my entire meal. This green bean casserole is one of them. It’s not the version you’re probably familiar with. You know the one: somebody in your family makes it (or requests that someone else do it) every Thanksgiving.
This new take on that tradition requires a bit more time and effort (but not much) than opening cans (although I sometimes use canned green beans). And even though it’s built on a foundation of bacon and coated with cream, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s healthier than the other one since there are no processed ingredients or fried onions on top.
“No fried onions!” I hear you screaming. Wait. It’s okay. They’ve been replaced with crispy shallots, which are pan-fried, but not battered. So the next time you’re craving that classic green bean casserole, take a little extra time and try this one.
BETTER-THAN-BEFORE GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
• 1 /2 cup shallots, chopped
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• 2 cans French-cut green beans, drained (or the equivalent frozen or fresh beans)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 5 slices bacon, chopped
• 1 cup cream
• 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the oil and then add the bacon and cook on medium-high heat until crisp around the edges. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a low boil. Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the green beans and stir to mix. Put the skillet in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes. Top with crispy shallots (see method below).
You can also use frozen or even fresh green beans and bake it in all in a casserole dish (if you’re taking it to a supper club or delivering dinner to a friend). For this method, thaw frozen green beans and blanch in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. If using fresh beans, blanch in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how soft you want them to be. Drain and place in a casserole dish. Make the cream sauce in a skillet using the above instructions, and once the cream thickens a bit, pour it over the green beans and stir to combine. Place the dish in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes. Top with crispy shallots.
• 3 to 4 large shallots, sliced into thin rings
• 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the shallots, spreading them out into one layer in the pan. Cook them slowly over medium-low heat and stir often. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat. The shallots will burn before you know it! Once they are golden brown, place them on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle them with salt.