You might find this sacrilegious or even un-American, but I have to confess that I don’t love the traditional green bean casserole that’s a staple on the holiday table in many, many American households. Cream of mushroom soup is gloppy (to me) and the canned green beans are just a shadow of their former crisp green selves (in my humble opinion) in the this dish.
Go ahead. Call me a food snob. (Alas – it might be true.)
However, I recognize that for people who do love that iconic comfort food that originated back in the 50s as a way to sell more Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, any recipe that tries to mimic the flavors and textures of that dish – but doesn’t even get close – is disappointing, frustrating and borderline insulting. Don’t *%$*! mess with my beloved green bean casserole is the distinct message they convey, with appropriately grim and even mildly threatening facial expressions.
So I’m staying away from the controversy of trying to replicate the standard and instead, I’m sharing a holiday-worthy recipe for green beans and mushrooms that is bold and different with bright, fresh flavors and diversity of textures. It’s nothing like the green bean casserole you grew up with, and won’t make you feel like a food snob is trying to put something over on you. If you’re a green bean casserole lover (GBCL) like many of my family members, you could serve my dish at a different time. New Year’s, perhaps. And then you’d see it for the unique dish that it is, not a threat.
The inspiration for this dish was something from my Mom and Dad’s cookbook, Great Tastes of the Texas Gulf Coast. There’s Mom’s version.
I remember Mom making this and thought it could be gussied up a little for the holiday table, so here’s my take on it. The name is inspired by the multiple toppings. The recipe looks long and complicated because I spelled out exactly how to do some standard things, like boiling eggs and toasting nuts, in case there are novice cooks putting together a Thanksgiving meal, but it’s really just a few simple steps. The tangy lemon dressing and garnishes elevate a humble side dish to holiday celebration-worthy, in terms of both taste and presentation.
Over the Top Fancy Green Beans and Mushrooms Recipe
Serves 8-12 on a Loaded Holiday Table
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, whole or in pieces
- 1/2 lb. bacon
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon or horseradish mustard
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
Green Beans and Mushrooms
- 1 lb. fresh green beans or haricot vert
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup of diced yellow onion (about half a small onion)
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 6 – 8 oz. of fresh mushrooms, sliced or roughly chopped
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
Prepare the toppings and dressing. (All can be made ahead by 1 day and stored in the refrigerator, covered.)
Make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients except the olive oil until well blended, and then whisking in the olive oil slowly until it emulsifies. Set aside.
Add 3 eggs to boiling water in a small-to-medium saucepan by carefully lowering them into the pan on a spoon, then set a timer for 12 minutes. Have the lid to the pan ready for use after the eggs are cooked. While the eggs are cooking, add some ice to a small bowl. When the eggs are done, pour the boiling water out of the pan into the sink and immediately run cold water over the eggs, then pour that water out and add the ice to the pan, then cover with the lid, hold the lid on top of the pan and shake it vigorously for about 30 seconds. This will crack the shells and make the eggs very easy to peel. Leave them in the ice for a few minutes and then peel when they have cooled. Chop the eggs finely and set aside in a small dish.
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 325°. Put the nuts on an uncreased baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, then remove and use a spatula to turn them. Put them back in the oven for 3 more minutes, then check for doneness. Add another 3 minutes if they’re not yet toasted to your liking. Do not let them burn. Remove from the oven when done and put them on a cutting board, chopping them after they’ve cooled. Set aside in a small dish.
Dice the bacon and cook it in a large skillet until it is crispy. Turn off the heat and remove the bacon from the pan onto paper towels. Set aside in a small dish. Remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. (You will be using the pan again for the green beans and mushrooms.)
Fill a large pot with water and 2 tbsp of salt and bring it to a boil. Add the green beans to blanch for 4-5 minutes. While the beans are cooking, fill a large bowl with ice water, leaving enough room to add the beans. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately add them to the ice water to stop the cooking and retain their bright green color and some crunch. (You may need to add more ice.) When the beans have completely cooled, drain them in the colander again and set aside on a towel or paper towels to dry.
Heat the reserved bacon fat in your large skillet to medium and add the olive oil and then the onions, sautéing them for about 3-4 minutes until they are relatively soft, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Stir in the mushrooms and continue to cook until they are soft, then season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and stir well.
When the mushrooms are cooked, turn off the heat, add the drained green beans to the skillet and stir. Toss in the sliced green onions and stir well, then pour the dressing over the mushroom and beans mixture and mix.
To serve, pour the mushrooms and beans mixture into a bowl or platter. You can either top with the nuts, bacon, eggs and parsley, or put the toppings on the side for everyone to add to their own plates. (Holiday presentation is more impressive with the toppings added to the dish.) The dish is best served at room temperature.
Make It Ahead
Everything can be made one to two days ahead – stop the process just before adding the green onions to the mushrooms and beans mixture. Put the mushrooms and green beans into a bowl and cover, and refrigerate them and all of the other components separately. One hour before serving, get everything out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Stir the dressing to re-emulsify it. Add the green onions and the dressing to the mushrooms and green beans and mix well, them put into your serving dish and add the toppings.
Make It Easier
There are several shortcuts that would make this dish slightly less homemade, but a little quicker from start to finish:
- Pre-cooked bacon
- Green beans or haricot vert in a microwavable steam bag (just follow the instructions and keep the ice bath step to retain the bright green color)
- Pre-toasted / roasted nuts (don’t feel like you have to stick to pecans or walnuts – toasted almond slices would be nice, and even mixed nuts)
- Pre-sliced mushrooms
- Pre-made / grocery store lemon vinaigrette / salad dressing
But these shortcut ingredients should never, ever be used in this recipe (just say no!):
- Canned green beans
- Canned mushrooms
- ‘Bacon bits’ in a jar (heresy!)
Make It Vegetarian
Over the Top Green Beans and Mushrooms can easily be a very nice vegetarian side by omitting the bacon and adding 1 tbsp of olive oil in the sauté pan. To make it a vegetarian main course, omit the bacon, add the 1 tbsp olive oil, and add cubed firm tofu during the sautéing step, after the onions and before the mushrooms and green beans.
Make It a Little Like the Traditional Dish
Even though I vowed not to insult or disappoint GBCLs by doing a faux version of the classic, there is one thing that can be added to this dish as a respectful reference: the fried onions. One more garnish over the top of the green beans and mushrooms wouldn’t hurt at all, and might be a nice bridge between the GBCLs and this (different) holiday green bean dish.
Make a Smaller Batch
This dish is really good, but also rich. If you have a smaller family or are empty-nesters like us, you’ll probably want to cut the recipe in half. We had green beans for DAYS when I created and tested the recipe. The second time I made it, I did a half batch, and it was still quite generous (6 servings).
Make It Any Time
This dish is not just for the holidays! It would be perfect alongside a grilled steak, roast chicken, pork tenderloin or any kind of fish (to name a few complementary proteins) – in any season. It would be great in a picnic basket with cold fried chicken, or alongside any Sandwich Wednesday panini.
Join Me in the Kitchen
Just a few pics to highlight the process…
Homage to the Traditional Green Bean Casserole
Even though I’m not a fan of the traditional dish, it does deserve some credit for its honored place on the American holiday table. Here’s a nice article circa 2018 from Smithsonian Magazine about its origin back in the 50s, which estimates that 20 million Americans will serve it at Thanksgiving.
If you’re a green bean casserole lover, what is it that makes it special for you? I’d really like to know.
© 2022, Glover Gardens