Talk about effective branding! That green bean casserole topped with fried onions makes an appearance every Thanksgiving on millions of dinner tables across America to this day. I’m always curious about the origins of different foods, especially when it comes to dishes that are included in traditional celebrations, both cultural and religious. Because one of the key ingredients is canned cream of mushroom soup, I suspected that this ubiquitous casserole came about in the 1950’s because that’s when incorporating Campbell’s canned soups in casseroles for a quick, no-fuss, one-pot meal became popular. Permanently embedded in the psyche of the baby boomer generation is the catchy Campbell’s tagline: Mmmm good… I can’t think of any other soup companies that existed then, can you? Anyway, I googled it and sure enough, according to Wikipedia, it was invented in 1955 in the Campbell Soup Company test kitchen under the leadership of Dorcas Reilly.
Some of you may still look forward to the familiar 1950’s version, but I know some of you may wish that mom or whoever brings the green bean casserole to the table every year, would give it a face lift! Here’s how easy it is to use all fresh ingredients: green beans, mushrooms, and onions, whip up a simple bechamel (white sauce) and sprinkle it with panko bread crumbs to satisfy the need for a crunchy topping 🙂
- 1 lb. green beans trimmed
- 6-8 oz. package cremini mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ onion sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter divided use
- 2 tablespoon Wondra flour*
- 1 c. milk or half & half
- ½ c. Kikkoman panko bread crumbs
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to boiling over high heat. After removing the ends, cut the beans in half. Add to boiling water and blanch the beans for about 2-3 minutes. This partially cooks the beans but they’ll be baked with the other ingredients to finish cooking. Remove the beans to a colander and run cold water over them.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. I added a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for a little kick. Sauté the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in the butter until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans to the mushrooms, mix together and cook another minute or so. Spoon the mixture into a baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons butter into the same skillet. When butter is melted, whisk in 2 tablespoons of Wondra flour*. Cook for a minute until the flour is incorporated into the butter, then add the milk. Continue to stir until thickened. Add a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Mix into the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with panko bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or until bread crumbs are crisped and golden. Recipe can easily be doubled. Can also be made 1 day ahead and reheated.
*Wondra is a must-have pantry item for smooth sauces and gravies.
Gluten free substitutions: use a cornstarch flurry instead of Wonder and chopped pecans instead of panko.