Serendipity doo-dah

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 10:55 AM

A couple of days ago I received a note from my niece, Susi:
“Can you do an article on green bean casserole? For 10 years I have been making it and for 10 years it does not turn out. Now it's a running joke to everyone that I'm going to bring this casserole that no one eats. This year is the year for me, I can feel it.”
The funny thing is I was actually planning to write about green beans this week.
A month or so ago, I came up with a new recipe for them.  And when Petey was at Duke, I had some very tasty green beans at one of the cafeterias.
I wasn’t really thinking about casseroles, but I know a lot of folks like it during the holidays, and anyway, I can’t let Susi down.
All of the recipes use 12-ounce steamer bags of pre-cleaned string beans, found in the refrigerated section of the produce department (so easy, they save tons of time).  They also all start by blanching the beans — boil in heavily salted water for 3-4 minutes, then shock in ice water to stop the cooking.
Scratch-made Green Bean Casserole
3 steamer bags green beans, blanched, drained, and cut in thirds
1 pound mushrooms, sliced-your choice
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh
½ cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup roux; equal parts butter and flour, cooked on stovetop ‘til peanut butter colored
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large white onion, sliced into paper thin rounds
2 cups flour
Oil for frying
Salt & pepper

Make soup: Sautee mushrooms, onions and thyme in cooking oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  When lightly caramelized, deglaze pan with wine.  Once it evaporates, add chicken stock. Bring to boil.  Whisk in roux, a bit at a time until it’s cream soup thickness.  Take off heat, pour in cream, and stir.
Place drained beans in bowl, mix in ¼ cup Parmesan, and soup.  Pour into greased dish and refrigerate.
Make onion straws—Put oil in large heavy pot.  Heat on medium until it comes up to 350 degrees.  Dredge sliced onions in heavily seasoned flour and shake off excess.  Fry in small batches until golden brown and crispy.  Sprinkle with salt and drain on paper towels.
Assembly and baking—Sprinkle beans with remaining Parmesan, then top with onion straws.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until crispy and bubbling.
Serves 8-10.
Greenie Beanies
2 bags green beans, blanched and drained
4 slices bacon, cut into ¼ inch strips, cooked until crispy, and set aside.  Reserve 1 tablespoon rendered fat
1 large shallot, diced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Sautee shallots in bacon fat until golden.  Add beans, season with salt and pepper, and stir in mustard and chicken stock.  Cover and cook on medium-low for 5-7 minutes.  Uncover and cook until liquid has evaporated.  To serve, sprinkle bacon on top.
Serves 6-8.
Duke West String Beans
2 bags beans, blanched and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Splash of soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper

Sautee garlic and sesame seeds in olive oil until toasted and golden.  Pour in beans, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chicken stock.  Cover and cook 3-5 minutes.  Uncover, add butter, and cook on medium until sauce is thick and syrupy.  Add lemon juice and toss to coat. Season to taste.
Serves 6-8.
I’m also a big fan of Italian green beans cooked slowly with bacon or fat back.  But I don’t ever cook them myself.  Miss Katz at Carlie C’s on Highway 98 makes an amazing version that’s on their hot bar every week or so.  If I’m lucky enough to show up when they have them (more sweet serendipity), I stock up. Petey thinks it’s a little odd, but I love a bowl of them, all by themselves, for lunch.
OK, Susi — here’s your green bean casserole.  But if it’s a dud, don’t tell anybody you got the recipe from me.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is momsequitur@gmail.com.