In Defense of the Almighty Green Bean Casserole
It’s time to give the modest, and ever-so-underrated green bean casserole the respect it deserves this Thanksgiving. I already know the biggest reservation some of you have concerning my favorite holiday staple:
“Blah, green beans are plain and, almost always, overcooked.”
Before you roll your eyes at the notion of welcoming yet another green bean casserole to your holiday table this year, allow me to defend life’s little podded green pleasure, in hopes you will see its vast potential as one of your side dishes this season.
When you’ve had the opportunity to pick peas and green beans as I have, you realize all the love that goes into each bean’s tenderness from the field to the dinner table. I remember bringing home large buckets of green beans picked fresh from the garden. My mom and I would string and break those beans until our fingers were sore, and then she’d boil them with pork to smoky, delicately sweet-salty perfection. And after, I’d ask her to drain some of the boiling liquid into a cup for dipping my skillet flatbread. As you can probably tell, my love for green beans and green bean casserole runs deep.
Obviously I'm not alone in my admiration, as this 2015 study conducted by Del Monte Green Bean Index shows that green beans are the most popular vegetable and green bean casserole is the go-to side dish for Thanksgiving. While Louisiana ranked first on the list for its love of green bean casserole, I'm embarrassed for my home states of Georgia and Alabama. Shame on you, Southerners. I mean you couldn’t even make the top 20...above Utah and California?? C'mon, now. Really?
While boiled green beans were often a typical dish for weeknight dinners in our household, on Thanksgiving, a green bean casserole is as significant in my family's feast as the turkey and dressing. Don’t scoff! I know there are terrible casseroles out there, but when prepared right, a green bean casserole can be one of the most comforting and appetizing dishes on the table. Here are a few pointers on how to build a better casserole, if you haven’t mastered it already:
- First, start with fresh green beans, NOT canned green beans. I come from a long line of farmers and gardeners, so the idea of canned vegetables makes me want to hurl. I don't care what anyone says, fresh is always best in my book.
- Next, you can go with the typical can of mushroom soup, or you can mix things up by making your own homemade creamy sauce using chicken stock, flour, mushrooms, and cream.
- Finally, you don’t want to stray too far from tradition with the topping. French fried onions is the signature topping, and rightfully so. That said, there are a few acceptable/advisable additions: crumbled bacon, chopped toasted nuts, and shredded cheese.