Who knew?! Green bean casserole is holiday food. In fact, green bean casserole is favorite holiday food. Thanksgiving is the obvious occasion. But Christmas? Easter? 4th of July? and even Labor Day? Yes those too.
This is Pioneer Woman's holiday-worthy homemade green bean casserole recipe. It's made from scratch without canned mushroom soup, in fact, it's made without mushrooms. So if someone in the family hates mushrooms, this is your recipe.
Oh yeah and did I mention her casserole calls for bacon? Yeah, bacon. (Note to Vegetarians.) And cheese too. The sauce is cheesy, PW's recipe has a "mac 'n' cheese meets the green bean casserole" vibe happening. In fact, I kept wondering how this would taste with broccoli. Yeah. Broccoli. Wouldn't that be great?
To be clear, I missed the texture contrast that mushrooms bring to the party, also the underlying umami that happens with mushrooms in the oh-such-a-favorite and life-changing World's Best Green Bean Casserole. I did incorporate the slightly fussy but very worthwhile tricks from that recipe: cooking the beans in a lot of salt; shocking them in ice water to stop the cooking; drying the beans really, really really well with layers of paper towels.
RECIPE for PIONEER WOMAN'S GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
Time to table: 2 hours
Serves 16 in smallish servings for a big multi-course meal such as Easter and Thanksgiving
16 cups water
2 tablespoons table salt
2 - 3 pounds fresh green beans, stem ends snapped off, broken into two or three bite-size lengths (see TIPS)
Large bowl of ice water
BACON or HAM & ONION
4 slices bacon (PW's choice) or 6 ounces ham (my choice), cut into small pieces (see TIPS)
1/2 a large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces cheese (see TIPS)
4 ounces pimento, drained and chopped
1/2 cup (or more or less, depending on the size of your pan) panko bread crumbs
PREP Preheat oven to 350F.
GREEN BEANS Bring water and salt to a boil. Drop the beans into the water, cover and cook for 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain beans into a colander, then immerse in the ice water until cool. Let drain. Spread beans in a single layer on two or three layers of thick paper towels, then pat dry with more paper towels.
BACON or HAM & ONION In a large skillet, start cooking the bacon until it's crispy or the ham until it begins to brown. Add the onion and garlic as soon as they are prepped. Cook until the onions are golden and the ham slightly crispy. If the skillet is a little dry, add a splash of water. Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.
CHEESY SAUCE In the same skillet, melt butter, then sprinkle flour over top. A tablespoon at a time, add the milk, stirring in each addition before adding another. This will take some time, but doing it carefully means no lumps in the sauce. Stir in salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir in cheese and pimento; stir until cheese melts.
COMBINE Stir beans and bacon or ham and onion mixture into the sauce. Spread mixture in a two-quart casserole dish.
TO BAKE RIGHT AWAY Sprinkle panko over top and bake for 30 - 45 minutes until mixture is bubbly and the panko has turned golden. If the panko doesn't turn golden, put the casserole under the broiler for 2 - 3 minutes.
TO BAKE LATER Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake for about 20 minutes (for a low-profile dish such as a quiche pan) to 45 minutes (for a deeper dish).
TO HOLD Covered in foil, the casserole holds beautifully for at least an hour at 200F.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
COOKING THE BEANS Salt is so important to cooking beans and having them taste good. Sixteen cups of water and 2 tablespoons salt is the proportion learned in the World's Best Green Bean Casserole. My Dutch oven is smaller than that, so I just fill it really full (leaving room for the beans) and add the salt and cook it in one batch.
SNAPPING BEANS The beans can be snapped and cooked ahead of time. I usually snap two beans at a time. It helps to line them up at the stem end, then just snap away.
HAM vs BACON Pioneer Woman's recipe uses 4 slices of bacon. I substituted ham because I liked the idea of a somewhat more substantial supper casserole.
SAUCE FOR 3LBS of BEANS? To my taste, this recipe has more sauce than it needs. Why I don't know, this recipe and the World's Best Green Bean Casserole both use two pounds of beans:3 cups liquid. Perhaps it's because there are no mushroom to soak up the sauce? Anyway, I'd recommend 3 pounds of beans here.
CHEESE Use any good melting cheese. Pioneer Woman uses 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar but recommends using Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack for lighter color. I used cotija, a favorite Mexican cheese.
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