Old-fashioned string bean casserole was never a staple at my family’s Thanksgiving until a handful of years ago, when my father requested that we bring back this dish from his childhood, complete with canned string beans, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and French’s onions. Needless to say, it was a huge hit. This version, entirely homemade, eschews cans and jars for fresh produce, including the shiitakes that form the base of a flavorful cream of mushroom soup.
Serves 8 as a side dish
2 pounds string beans or haricots verts
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
20 sprigs thyme (a small handful)
¼ cup white wine
1 cup cream
1 cup chicken stock, divided Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup canola oil
6 shallots, sliced thinly, slices separated from one another
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Bring a medium-large pot of generously salted water to boil. Blanch the string beans until just soft, about 3–4 minutes, and drain in a colander. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325°.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and sweat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to break down, another 3–5 minutes. Remove the thyme and dispose.
Add the wine, cream and ½ cup of the chicken stock. Cook another 3–5 minutes, then transfer to a blender and purée. Transfer back into pan, add the rest of the chicken stock and combine, reserving over low heat until ready to use.
Arrange the string beans in a roughly 9- by 13-inch casserole. Pour in the mushroom mixture. Toss to combine well. Set aside.
Clean out the sauté pan used for the mushroom mixture. Add the canola oil and heat over medium-high. On a large plate, coat the shallots in the flour and brown sugar and season generously with salt. Throw a tester in the oil—the oil is ready for frying when a shallot sizzles. In 2 batches, fry until golden-brown, about 5–7 minutes. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate to cool. When cool enough to handle, arrange over the top of the casserole and bake for 10 minutes.
LUKE PYENSON is a food and travel writer, recipe developer, food stylist and photographer based in New York City. You can see examples of his work at www.lukepyenson.com.