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Green Bean Casserole

November 18, 2010

I had a post all ready for Tuesday featuring a “healthier” green bean casserole, only to discover it had more calories than the old-fashioned kind made with cream of mushroom soup. Plus, it definitely wasn’t easier than tossing frozen green beans with a can of soup and topping with fried onions, so it didn’t meet either of my qualifications. I set on a search for a dish that was truly healthier and I think I’ve found a real winner!

This recipe still provides the creamy texture of the original combined with the added flavor of the mushrooms, but it uses fresh ingredients instead. As a result you have 1/3 of the fat and 30% less sodium, without sacrificing any of the flavor. Sadly this requires a little more hands on time, but the quality of the outcome will be worth it.

You start by preparing the green beans.  I used fresh so I cooked them for 1-2 minutes in boiling water.

Then you caramelize the onions and prepare your own cream sauce.

Assemble the casserole and bake for 20 minutes.

Green Bean Casserole
Yields: 6 Servings

1/2 teaspoon Canola oil
1 large Onion (thinly sliced)
1/2 cup Breadcrumbs (fresh, if ps
2 cup Skim milk
6 Black peppercorns
1 Bay leaf
1 pinch Nutmeg (grated)
1/2 teaspoon Canola oil
1 small Onion (finely chopped)
1/2 pound Mushrooms (trimmed and sliced, 3 cups)
1 Garlic clove (finely chopped)
1/4 cup All purpose flour
1/4 cup Reduced-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
1 9-ounce package Frozen green beans (2 cups)

1. To make onion topping: Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and toast, stirring once, until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
3. To make sauce: Combine milk, peppercorns, bay leaf and nutmeg in a medium saucepan and heat over low until steaming. Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes and strain into a measuring cup. (Discard peppercorns and bay leaf.)
4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in sour cream, salt and pepper.
5. To assemble and bake casserole: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread green beans evenly over the bottom of a shallow 2-quart baking dish and pour the sauce over the top. Toss together the reserved onions and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and spread over the beans. Bake until bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.

Kate’s Tips

The recipe indicates that you can substitute 1/2 pound fresh green beans for frozen. I would recommend using 1 1/4 pound for a full recipe. You lose a little in the trimming process and 1/2 pound definitely would not translate to 6 servings.

If you choose to use fresh beans instead of frozen (which I would recommend if you have time; I bought 1/2 pound fresh for $.33!), trim the beans and cut into 1-inch lengths. You will then need to blanch the beans for 1 to 2 minutes in boiling water, rinse under cold water and then spread in casserole dish.

Be sure to cook the onions as low and slow as possible.  I always have problems on our electric stove top and they came out much darker than I would have liked.  If you plan to assemble the casserole ahead of time, wait to add the onions until you are ready to cook.  This home-made version is definitely not as crunchy as the fried onions you may be used to using and adding them to the casserole too soon may cause them to become mushy.

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