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In my mind, green bean casserole is to Thanksgiving Dinner what fruitcake is to Christmas. Like fruitcake, GBC can be good…but it can also be really, really bad. In cases of BAD GBC, concentrated cream-of-mushroom soup and canned green beans are almost certainly to blame. I remember one that not only was made with both these atrocities, but was also scorched and—quite literally—inedible.
Arriving at a recipe for Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole
GBC is a dish that I have explored in-depth. I’ve used canned, frozen, and fresh green beans. I have used canned and homemade cream-of-mushroom soup. I’ve topped with breadcrumbs, French’s fried onions, and homemade fried onions. After all that, I’ve settled on a solution that’s probably more complicated than you want to hear, but not as complicated as it might be. And it’s worth it. More importantly, you can make most of it ahead of time so that all you have to do is pop it in the oven when the turkey comes out.
I’ve found that homemade cream-of-mushroom soup is a must. The soup comes out so delicious that you can eat it by itself—not even in the same universe as that canned cream-of-nasty stuff that I grew up with. I leave my mushrooms chunky, but you can chop yours up fine—or even pureé the soup—if you have chunk-averse, fussy eaters in your gathering.
Fresh green beans are an absolute must. I like to use the thin French green beans (a.k.a. haricots verts) because I prefer their flavor and find them easier to work with. Costco always seems to have 2-lb. bags of these in stock.
I’ve discovered that homemade fried onions are too froufy for true GBC aficionados: French’s fried onions, which I mix with buttery breadcrumbs, are the required topping.
If you wanted to go completely homemade with my make-ahead green bean casserole, you could batter and fry your own thin-sliced onions or forego the onions altogether in favor of buttery breadcrumbs.
Preparing the Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole
I’ve made this green bean casserole as much as 4 days in advance. In this case, I press some plastic wrap down onto the surface of the casserole, wrap aluminum foil over the top of the casserole dish, and pop the whole thing in the freezer. I pull the casserole out of the freezer 2 days before the big event and store it in the fridge, then bring it up to room temperature before topping with the fried onion/breadcrumb mixture and baking while the turkey rests.
In my many years of eating and making green bean casserole, this Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole is by far my favorite. It’s not a looker, but it’s a crowd favorite.
I hope it becomes a favorite on your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table as well. Happy Holidays!
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms cleaned, trimmed, and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic minced (don’t skimp on these!)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup dried mushrooms preferably porcini, rehydrated
- 1 1/2 cups of mushroom-rehydrating liquid strained, mixed with chicken broth (the proportion is up to you)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 1 tablespoon sweet marsala optional
- Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed
- 2 pounds fresh green beans preferably haricots verts, stems trimmed, snapped into bite-size pieces
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 cups canned fried onions* coarsely chopped
Rehydrate dried mushrooms in 1 1/2 cups of scalding water for at least 30 minutes. Strain the mushroom rehydrating liquid into a measuring cup and mix (as needed) with broth to make 1 1/2 cups. Remove the rehydrated mushrooms and rinse. Chop finely.
Blanch the green beans by boiling them 3-5 minutes, until still crisp-tender. Drain and plunge into a large bowl of ice water. When cooled, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid. Continue cooking until liquid is evaporated. Add the garlic and thyme; cook for ~1 minute more. Sprinkle flour over the mixture; stir to combine. Slowly stir in the stock (a tablespoon at a time), allowing each addition to absorb completely before adding more. (This will prevent lumps, so be patient!) Stir in the cream and wine; bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened (~15 minutes). Add the marsala (if using); stir. Simmer for 2 additional minutes.
While the sauce simmers, toss the green beans with the cornstarch. Add to a 9x13 baking dish.
Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as needed with S&P. (NOTE: you want the sauce to be on the salty side, since the green beans are not salted.) Pour the sauce over the beans and push the beans down so that they’re completely covered with sauce. Press plastic wrap over the surface of the casserole, making sure there are no air pockets. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Refrigerate or freeze (see below).
You can do all of the above and freeze the dish; thaw three days before serving. Otherwise, make the dish up to two days before serving.
Make the topping by mixing the melted butter with the panko, fried onions, and S&P. Unwrap the dish, discard plastic wrap. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the casserole; re-cover with foil. Allow the casserole to sit at room temperature for about an hour before it goes in the oven. Bake the casserole at 350° for 20 minutes, covered. Remove foil; bake an additional 10 minutes or until topping is golden-brown.
*If you'd like, you can chop up an additional cup of the fried onions and mix them in with the beans and sauce to kick the flavor up even more. However, I don't recommend this strategy if you're planning to freeze the casserole.
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