Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole from canned ingredients on the left, Homemade Green Bean Casserole on the right

When I think about my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, green bean casserole is definitely NOT on the top of my list.  My husband, on the other hand, looks forward to green bean casserole each year and even says it is one of his favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal.  The casserole that he prefers is the traditional, soup-from-a-can variety and I just don’t find it appealing at all.  It is not the green beans themselves that I dislike (they are actually one of my favorite vegetables) rather it is the gooey, gloppy, grey sauce that they are served in that I con’t find very enjoyable.  I prefer my green beans in a light vinaigrette or simply roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.  So, is there a green bean casserole recipe that would satisfy both a traditionalist like my husband and those of us who prefer something with fresher flavor?  The recipe below is my attempt to create a casserole that would appeal to both types of Thanksgiving guests.  If you are of the traditional green bean casserole school, then you will immediately notice that there are no mushrooms in my homemade version.  This omission is due to my lingering dislike of mushrooms, especially the canned variety.  However, it would be easy to add half a pound of fresh, sliced mushrooms along with the other vegetables if you think they are necessary.  We tasted a recipe of traditional green bean casserole made from canned beans, mushroom soup and fried onions(from the recipe on the back of the French’s French Fried onion can) and the new casserole side-by-side to see how they compared.

Parmesan Garlic Green Bean Casserole

Most of this recipe can be prepared one day early so that there is minimal pre-meal preparation required.  The shallots can be fried, drained and stored in an airtight container for a couple of days.  The cream sauce can be prepared and mixed with the cooked green beans and then stored in a covered dish a day ahead of time.  Then all you have to do is heat up the casserole in the oven until it is hot and bubbly and top with the pre-prepared shallots just before serving.

Serves 8


2 cups canola oil

3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 1/4 cups flour, divided

Salt and Pepper

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped in half

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1 onion, finely diced

1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 cup milk

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

1.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  In a medium mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup of flour and 1 teaspoon salt.  Add half of the sliced shallots to the flour mixture and toss to coat.  Remove the shallots from the flour, shaking off excess flour, and fry them in the heated oil for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Using a slotted spoon, lift the shallots from the oil and drain on a sheet pan lined with paper towels.  Repeat with the other half of the shallots and set aside.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the green beans.  Cook for about 6 minutes or until crisp tender.  Drain green beans and set aside.

3.  Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper to the skillet and saute for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour to the pan and stir until moistened with butter.  Slowly add the broth and milk to the pan, whisking constantly as you add them to avoid clumps of flour forming.

4.  Cook the vegetables and sauce, whisking constantly, until sauce begins to thicken, about 3 minutes.  Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese just until melted.  Stir the cooked green beans into the sauce until well coated and then pour everything into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and top with remaining cheese.  Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and is bubbling.  Sprinkle fried shallots on top just before serving.

This comparison certainly made it clear to me that for some people, Thanksgiving is all about the tradition, especially when it comes to food.  While my husband liked the new version of green bean casserole and enjoyed eating it, he admitted that it would never take the place of the canned variety of casserole he remembers from his childhood.  His memories are just too strongly tied to the flavor of traditional casserole for any other to take its place.  However, we both agreed that the new casserole had a more complex flavor with the addition of garlic and parmesan and that it was less salty and fresher tasting than the casserole from a can.  We also both preferred the homemade fried shallots to the French’s canned fried onions.  The homemade fried shallots actually had a strong oniony flavor instead of just tasting like salty breading and had a more delicate crunch than the French’s onions.

The more traditional, from-a-can casserole is definitely less time consuming than my new version.  It takes about half the time to prepare and is certainly easier to make and clean up after.  In addition to consuming more time and effort, the homemade version is also about 50% more expensive than the casserole made from canned ingredients because of the high cost of fresh produce.

Bottom Line: If you are a Thanksgiving traditionalist who grew up eating the French’s canned onion variety of green bean casserole, then you should probably stick with tradition (and save some time and money) by making green bean casserole from canned ingredients.  If you are like me, however, and have never liked green bean casserole in the past, this new version, made with fresher ingredients, is definitely worth a try.

Parmesan Garlic Green Bean Casserole French’s Green Bean Casserole
Cost: $6.65 Cost: $4.37
Time: 1 hour Time: 40 minutes