As You Wish.

Last week I sent a Tweet into the Twittersphere asking folks to send me their favorite southern dishes. Shockingly, no one mentioned Tomato Aspic. Perhaps everyone already had their go to recipe for that one. I heard fried chicken and gravy, grits, Brunswick stew (recipe coming soon), biscuits and meatloaf, to name a few. But Maggie rmentioned green bean casserole. This instantly aroused my interest.

As I’ve mentioned previously, much to my chagrin, I didn’t really get to eat that kind of food growing up. I actually don’t recall a single casserole going on at the home base(s). Aunt Babe did a green bean dish at Christmas Eve dinner, but it was more like Shelly beans, bacon fat and pinto beans all cooked down in a broth. And very good as far as I remember. I’ll get that recipe from her when I go home next month.

But you see, casseroles were just the kind of thing I wanted to have for dinner. I was totally the wowzers-I-get-to-have-Stove-Top-Stuffing-twice-in-one-night kind-of-kid. But we never had Stove Top Stuffing. I’m not even sure I’ve had green bean casserole before. I know Brandon brought it to Thanksgiving last year, but I’m not certain I tried it. There was so, so, so much food that day, and I was in the kitchen so, so, so much that day.

So I did a little research:

Green bean casserole was first created in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company. Dorcas Reilly (I'm a little freaked out about a woman (or man) named Dorcas)) led the team that created the recipe while working as a staff member in the home economics department at Campbell. The inspiration for the dish was "to create a quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950s: green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup."

Fun fact: In 2002, Reilly presented the original recipe card to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

Dorcas, serving up her Hall of Famed Casserole to some lucky tyke.

Okay. So I began to pour through my cookbook collection. I have quite a few cookbooks (almost one hundred!), and quite a few vintage-y, weird-y ones with recipes that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up - involving bologna, maraschino cherries and cheese balls (together), but not a lot of green bean casserole. And so I figured I best go to the source: Campbell’s website. 

The recipe looked a little scary. But I decided to keep it classic with a scant few of my own tweaks, here and there. 

This, I realized, meant I had to go to a grocery store. Like, a real one. The kind that sells Campbell’s soups and those crispety-crunchety fried onion things. It had been awhile since I had been anywhere but farmers’ markets, Trader Joe’s, or small boutique stores. It was so fun!

So, there was no way I was going to use anything but fresh beans. Period. Though I thought it would be super cool to make my own creamy mushroom soup, I figured, if Campbell came up with the damned recipe, I better go ahead and use their product. I did, however, add some tarragon, a splash of sherry, and some sautéed red onion to the mix. I can’t help it.

Since I don’t really have a springboard on which to, um, spring, I have no clue if my green bean casserole is up to snuff, as it were. I like it, I do. It’s funny, though – it’s exactly what I wished was part of dinner at my house in 1987, but I realized – not necessarily what I want as part of dinner in my house in 2011. I’m guessing this is because I have no attachment, no visceral memory of it prior. Cube steak falls into this category as well.

Maggie should be home soon to indulge in her casserole, of which she has a very strong visceral memory. I hope it takes her back to her youth, her family and her kitchen table in Virginia.

I’ll keep you posted…

Green Bean Casserole
(Recipe adapted from Campbell's Soup Co.)

Serves 6

2 cups fresh, trimmed green beans
1 smallish red onion, coarsely chopped
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon chopped tarragon
A splash of sherry.
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/3 cups French fried onions

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking. Spread beans on paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Sauté red onion in butter until tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, tarragon, salt, black pepper, sherry, red onion, green beans and 2/3 cup French fried onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.

Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling.  Stir the bean mixture.  Sprinkle with the remaining onions.

Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

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