With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to share one of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes - green bean casserole. But! This isn't the green bean casserole that's made with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup and French's Fried Onions! It's a homemade version that Ryan created and perfected during the four years we lived in Italy when we didn't have access to ingredients like Campbell's and French's. We've never written down a recipe, so everything is very approximate, but I love this dish so much, mostly because of the great story behind it...
The first year we were in Italy, we had a Thanksgiving dinner with the other North Americans who were on Ryan's team. Ryan volunteered to make green bean casserole. At the time, The Cooperativa, which is Cortina's largest store, did carry Campbell's Cream of Mushroom - a key ingredient in green bean casserole. It cost 3.90 euro which, at the time, was equal to five dollars and sixteen cents. Unfortunately you need more than one can, so the casserole ended up costing over $30 to make.
The next year, we brought our own cans of Cream of Mushroom, from Colorado to Cortina, and the following year, we phased Campbell's out all together. Here's a (rough) version of how we make it now:
For the casserole:
Depending on how many you're cooking for, you need about 4 or 5 cans of green beans (this will fill a large casserole dish). Drain the beans and put them in a large bowl. Slice up a package of mushrooms and cook them in a little butter until soft. Make a roux with flour, chicken broth, cream and butter - add salt to taste. When you find the consistency you like - it should be creamy! - add the mushrooms into the sauce. Combine this mixture with the green beans and transfer to a casserole dish.
For the topping:
Slice up a bag of shallots. You want the shallots to cover the top of the casserole, so slice as many as you need depending on how big your dish is. Coat the sliced shallots in flour. To make the flour mixture, Ryan usually adds some Lowry's salt to the flour - you could also add regular salt or whatever spices you have on hand and feel like using - the end result should be salty though, so don't shy away from the salt! In a large soup pot, heat frying oil over medium high heat and fry up the flour-coated shallot slices in batches. Leave them in the hot oil until they're slightly browned - since they're small, this should only take a minute or two - then transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to dry. When all the shallots are fried, sprinkle them over the top of the casserole.
Heat in a low oven for 20-30 minutes - just until it's heated through and ready to serve.
PS - This post about Thanksgiving in Italy two years ago still makes me laugh....and, How to Have Thanksgiving in Italy.