I am a huge fan of green beans. I am however not a fan of green bean casserole. It always tastes like canned mushrooms – blech! And for someone who’s an on-again off-again mushroom fan, tin-y, chewy, rubbery, canned mushrooms aren’t a good flavor to be promoting in any kind of dish.
When I was a kid the traditional green bean casserole (as seen in the photo) graced every major holiday feast table. Every church potluck supper I’ve ever been to have an entire section dedicated to this ‘easy to prepare’ covered dish. And every ‘quick-fix meals’ cookbook I’ve ever picked up has the standard version (or some variation) of this classic listed in the veggie section.
But let me share a secret with you. I’ve broken the mold. I’ve come up with something way better than any kinda green bean casserole you’ll find at any potluck or on any Grandma’s table. This simple, cheesy, creamy concoction will blow your socks off, and if you’re not a great fan of the ol’ shroom you’ll love it even more!
Not Your Grannies Green Beans
4 oz. regular or low-fat cream cheese, room temperature (this is a half of a standard block of cream cheese, if you were wondering)
½ c. Olive oil mayonnaise (or whatever kind of mayonnaise you like – although I don’t think Miracle Whip will work in this recipe – if you try it, let me know how it turns out)
½ c. regular or low-fat sour cream
2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped (use 3 medium onions if you don’t have big ’uns – you can’t have enough onions in anything – at least, that’s my philosophy!)
1 fat quart of home-canned/frozen or fresh green beans, cooked down (or 2 – 15 oz. cans of green beans, heated and drained)
¼ – ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you like it on the zippy side of spicy)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 pat of butter (approx. 1 tbsp.)
1 c. beef broth (this can be made from bullion – that’s how I do it anyway – much more economical too)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot (but not smoking – we’re not trying to set the kitchen on fire at this stage…that’ll come later in the recipe) – add in chopped onions and stir to coat – sprinkle in a little kosher salt to help the onions release their deliciously sweet juices. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until the onions become soft and begin to brown – approx. 10 minutes. Be careful though, don’t burn them (this means, don’t walk away and forget about them until the smoke alarm starts going off – I told you that comes later on in the recipe…much later), just caramelize them.
Once the onions are nearly caramelized (this means they’re pretty brown – not black – and very soft), sprinkle on the cayenne pepper (to your taste – some like it a little spicy, some like it a lot spicy – that’s us by the way) and pour in the beef broth. This will sizzle and bubble like crazy – don’t be afraid, that’s normal! At this point, reduce heat to low. Simmer the broth and onions until the liquid has reduced by more than half, but don’t dry out the pan – you want everything nice and thick and moist, but not soupy. At this point, turn off the heat and stir in the pat of butter, which will make the whole pan glisten. Now set pan aside to cool and move on to the next part of this recipe, which also won’t involve burning down the kitchen.
While the pan of caramelized onions is cooling, in a medium-sized bowl, stir together the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, and some fresh ground black pepper until the mixture is pretty smooth. Stir in the drained and heated green beans and somewhat cooled onions (and any juices that are still in the pan) and allow the heat from the beans and onions to begin to melt the cheese mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine and then taste test for seasonings. Add in salt (if needed), more ground black pepper (freshly cracked is really best in this recipe, but the black dust will work too), and a bit more cayenne if you want a real kick in the pants!
At this point, you can scoop this into a baking dish and top with the traditional can of fried onions or even some seasoned bread/cracker crumbs and then bake it in the oven for a few minutes to crisp everything up, but it’s not really necessary. If you’d like to keep it a bit more figure friendly (like we do), you can just dig out a pretty dish and serve it in all its creamy and unadorned glory. This is also a dish that is great made ahead of time and reheated in the oven or slow cooker.
And for those of you who’re screaming at your computer, “That’s not green bean casserole – there aren’t any mushrooms in it you moron…” you’re absolutely correct – there aren’t any mushrooms in it. But I told you right up front that this wasn’t your Grannies green beans. However I will concede that if you’re just desperate for mushrooms, you can caramelize a cup of fresh (and yes, they must be fresh and not canned) sliced mushrooms of your choice in with the onions if you’re just desperate for that traditional mushroom-y flavor. I’m flexible, and besides, I’ll never know!