Breaking Tradition: Green Bean Casserole

How to make green bean casserole from scratch using only fresh ingredients by

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It’s that time of year we are reminded of traditions. Something we love when we’re kids, ignore when we’re teenagers, forget when we’re young adults, until one year, we finally rediscover, relearn, foster, and treasure our traditions as each year goes by faster than the one before.

And no matter what holiday – no matter what culture – the traditions that live on are found in the kitchen. What’s Thanksgiving without turkey?  Or my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, green bean casserole?

Homemade green bean casserole for Thanksgiving by

Green bean casserole was invented by Campbell Soup Company in 1955, and quickly became a staple on the Thanksgiving table.

And unlike most Thanksgiving cooking traditions, the recipe was almost instant:
Mix canned or frozen green beans with a glop of canned condensed cream of mushroom soup, milk, and one can of French’s Fried Onions (more palm oil than onion, and a few chemicals added in like Tbhq, a form of butane). Bake.

That's not a surprise.  Walk into a grocery store, and you will breeze through the fresh produce area, and then get lost in the winding maze of packaged, processed foods. Aisles of boxes and cans.

I was thinking about that the other day while watching Reese’s mom in the kitchen. She cooks up elaborate meals using only fresh ingredients.  Cooking that has been passed down many generations, unadulterated.  But she is the exception, as more and more processed foods invade kitchens in Penang, especially during holiday feasts.

auntie cooking at home in penang

While pumpkin pie, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce were originally prepared with fresh ingredients, green bean casserole was designed with processed foods.

But as much as traditions are meant to be kept, some are meant to be broken…

How to make french fried onions for green bean casserole by

Nontraditional Green Bean Casserole  by Season with Spice

What you’ll need:
1 pound of fresh green beans – steamed or boiled until softened

Cream of Mushroom:
2 cups of mushrooms, chopped finely (you can use cremini, portobello,  porcini mushrooms or a mixture)
4 cloves garlic
Dab of butter
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp soy sauce/ tamari or Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbsp water
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp corn flour (starch) –dissolved in 1/2 tbsp of water
1/4 tsp of dried thyme
Dash of of Season with Spice's ground nutmeg
Salt to season
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

French Fried Onions:
2 large white onions – sliced into rings
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of cooking oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Cook green beans and set aside.
2. On medium fire, heat olive oil in pan, then add butter.  Lower heat and sauté garlic for one minute.  Add mushrooms in and turn heat back up to medium.  Add soy sauce and water, and sauté for 5-7 minutes until liquid is cooked out.  Add a dash of salt and black pepper.
3. Turn fire to low. Stir in milk and cream with the mushrooms.  Sprinkle on the spices.  Add dissolved corn starch. Cook on low, constantly stirring until soup thickens.  Set aside.
4. Add milk to one bowl, and flour to the other (add a dash of salt and black pepper with the flour)
5. In a wok or deep frying pan, add cooking oil and heat on high.  The oil is ready when you stick the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, and bubbles form around it.  When the oil is ready, turn the fire down. (Safety note: Never heat oil unattended.)
6. One at a time, dip onion rings into milk, and then into flour, coating well.  Add to oil and fry until browned.  Remove and place on a tray lined with paper towel.
7. Mix everything together in a baking pan (keep a few onion rings to place on top), and bake for 20 minutes at 375F (190C).  Enjoy this nontraditional green bean casserole for your next Thanksgiving!

-You can bake the onions for a healthier version, but you won't get that traditional crispiness in the casserole like you will if you deep fry or pan fry the onions.