By Chef Amanda DeLaura
Although you may be looking for every way to cut corners this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to continue making your food from scratch, even when it takes an extra step or two to avoid any artificially processed foods. Your health is well worth your effort, time, and money. My creamy, luscious green bean casserole says goodbye to Campbell's soup and store-bought fried onions. Instead, you’ll make your own mushroom base and fry your onions in any leftover bacon fat, duck lard, or beef tallow you have on hand. If you don’t have any on hand, go find some at Whole Foods or your nearest market. The bacon is totally optional and can be omitted if you are kosher or avoiding pork for any reason. Bon appétit!
12-16 oz trimmed organic green beans
2 pieces thick-cut bacon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 very small chopped onion*
8 oz sliced mushrooms
2 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp organic butter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, spelt or einkorn, divided**
1 cup homemade chicken or beef bone broth
1/2 cup organic cream, half & half or raw milk
1/8 tsp red chili flakes
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg***
1 very small thinly sliced onion*
6 to 8 oz lard, duck fat or beef tallow
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of water to boil and season lightly with pink salt. Separately prepare a bowl with ice-cold water and once the pot is boiling, add the green beans and cook for three minutes. Promptly drain the green beans and place them in the ice water, preventing them from continuing to cook. Once cooled, drain and set aside.
- Using a medium skillet, cook 2 pieces of bacon over medium heat until crispy, flipping often. Drain the bacon on a paper towel, chop, and place in a small bowl, reserving the skillet and any leftover bacon fat for later use.
- In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high. Add one chopped onion and a generous pinch of Real pink salt. Allow the onions to sweat and frequently mix to ensure they don’t burn. Once translucent, add 8 oz sliced mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Once the mushrooms are sweating, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until softened about two minutes. Lastly, add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook till aromatic, stirring for about 30 seconds. Transfer to the bowl with the bacon.
- Add 2 Tbsp butter with 2 Tbsp flour to the empty saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking vigorously until the color of the rue resembles a golden brown, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in 1 cup broth and 1/2 cup cream, continuing to whisk vigorously. Whisk until thickened to a creamy texture (but not too thick so that it is overly-congealed, you want a spoon to run through it easily), about three minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/8 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp red chili flakes and one pinch freshly grated nutmeg.
- Pour the cream sauce over the green beans, add the mushroom-onion-bacon mixture, taste, and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a large casserole dish and bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toss one thinly sliced onion with 6 Tbsp flour and a generous portion of freshly cracked pepper. Set aside. Add about half 3 to 4 oz bacon fat, lard, or tallow to the reserved skillet with bacon fat. Working in three batches, place a portion of onions in the pan and cook until golden brown and crispy (being sure to not overcrowd the pan), stirring onions as often as needed to avoid burning. If they begin to burn, be sure to lower the temperature. An ideal temperature for the fat is around 350ºF (be sure to not exceed the smoke point of 370ºF). Once browned, remove the onions from the lard with a slotted spoon, drain on a paper towel, and immediately sprinkle with a modest pinch of Real salt. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining onions, adding more lard to the pan as needed between batches.
- Once the casserole is cooked through and bubbling, remove it from the oven, top with the freshly fried onions, and enjoy. You can make the casserole a day or two in advance, storing the fried onions in an air-tight container on the counter. Bake the casserole for an additional 15 minutes to ensure it’s heated through.
NOTES: * I like to use very, very small onions (about 2 inches in diameter) so that I can slice them with my mandolin (if you have a narrow mandolin, you know what I mean). If your onions are too large for your mandolin, simply use one onion, slice half on the mandolin and chop the other half for the casserole.
** You can use any flour you so desire! If gluten-free, my favorite alternatives are tapioca flour and arrowroot flour.
*** Freshly grated nutmeg will taste superbly different than already-ground nutmeg from the supermarket! Although it’s harder to overpower a dish with freshly grated nutmeg, be sure to be cautious of the size of your pinch. I’d say you’d roughly want it to be anywhere from 1/16th to 1/8th teaspoon so as not to overpower the overall taste of the green beans.