Okay, I realize that I’m going to alienate some of you delightful readers with this statement, but I’ve just got to put it out there. Please forgive me.
*Ahem. * To those of you who serve and eat that green bean casserole during the holidays: what the Hell are you thinking?
That concoction is side dish purgatory. Green bean casserole is where the naughty green beans go to die.
For starters, the original recipe calls for canned green beans, which already counts as heresy. Nobody willingly eats canned green beans. Nobody. Even when cloaked in white goopy sauce.
And let’s talk about that sauce, shall we? That “sauce” is diluted cream of mushroom soup. I haven’t met a single soul who eats canned cream of mushroom soup as it’s meant to be eaten in its original form. I’m serious. I’ve never witnessed a person tucking into a big, steaming bowl of canned cream of mushroom soup. Or it’s suspicious and shady cousin, cream of celery.
I think the Campbell’s soup company invented green bean casserole just so a handful of human beings would actually purchase that line of product. It’s casserole conspiracy, I’m tellin’ you.
Dim the Lights, Cue the Action:
Seven Campbell’s executives sit in a meeting room, hunched over spec sheets, ashtrays by elbows, scratching their heads.
“The tomato bisque and the chicken noodle are selling like hotcakes. The vegetable beef and chicken with rice, well–they’re holding their own. But the cream ones are problematic…they’re just sittin’ on the shelves, not moving. Why aren’t they moving? We need to sell some cream soup boys, or our bottom line’s in the dust.”
The executives arrive home, briefcases and hats in hand, sit down to dinner and discuss the matter with apron-clad wives.
“You’re women,” they sigh over plates of pot roast and pork chops. “You know these things. You do the shopping. So tell us, why aren’t you gals buying the cream soups? How can we get you to buy the cream soups?”
The women cluck tongues and clear the dishes and think on it a while, and maybe they worry about the little one, the veggie-averse one, and wonder how can they get him to ingest green beans, or any vegetable besides corn for that matter. Maybe they smoke an after dinner cigarette, drink a cup of coffee and call their friend Brenda, to see what she thinks.
Maybe Brenda can’t get her little one to eat green beans, either. Maybe Brenda can’t talk long because she has her own troubles; her husband works for the French’s company and they can’t move those french-fried, dried onions to save their lives. Why won’t people buy the fried onions? Fried onions are delicious, right?
Maybe the wives and Brendas have trouble sleeping, thinking about these troubles, and maybe in the morning they plug the percolator in, spoon coffee grounds, think some more.
And voila!, gentle readers, green bean casserole is born. Casserole conspiracy, I tell ya.
Cue Lights in the House
Hmph. Like most conspiracies, this one is faulty. On paper, the plan makes sense, but it falters in execution. In the end, someone dies an untimely, innocent death.
In this case, it’s your ass.
And your tastebuds.
And the asses and tastebuds of those nearest and dearest to you at your holiday table.
‘Tis a sad, sad fate for the asses of the world at holiday time.
Readers! Wake up! That casserole is SO not worth the collateral damage. Save the Ass!
Give your ass and the asses of your loved ones a big gift this year: forgo the green bean casserole. They will thank you.
My suggestion? Replace it with this. The Un-gross Green Bean Dish. Now don’t pout at me, young lady; it doesn’t become you.
Besides, even though I’ve given you recipes for juice and kale recently, I am not going to steer you South here. This dish is still flavorful and adorned with bits of things decadent enough to scream, “Holidays!”
But those decadent tastes are bits, not white spackle. Not blankets deep-fried, dehydrated, crud. This dish is still plenty healthy and fresh, but it’s special enough to serve to people you love.
Un-Gross Green Bean Dish
serves 4 (can easily be doubled or tripled)
1 pound very small, thin green beans (hairicot verts), fresh or frozen*, ends snapped off (or if frozen, don’t freaking bother)
5-6 strips center-cut bacon, preferably Applewood smoked
1 medium onion, grated or minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup toasted nuts–I like almonds or pecans, but hazelnuts are lovely, too
Fry bacon in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Crumble.
Add the onions to the bacon fat (you should only have about a tablespoon of fat if you use the center-cut kind of bacon; if you have more, pour off the residual until you have just a tablespoon). Saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more.
Meanwhile, cook the haricot verts in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and place immediately into a bowl of water with ice. This “shocks” the beans; they’ll remain bright green and crisp. After a few minutes in the ice jacuzzi, drain and pat dry.
Add the shocked beans to the skillet with the onions and garlic; season with salt and pepper. If the mixture seems dry, add a splash of white wine or chicken stock, stirring to remove any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat and top with the parsley, the crisp bacon and the toasted nuts.