For people that cook and bake and host parties, November kicks off the mother of all times of the year. Holiday time...and a time when all the fattening, rich and glorious foods we deny ourselves all year long are totally ok - all the damn time. And for me, the culmination of pretty much my entire culinary year is Thanksgiving. It is simply the greatest thing ever.
I make like 30 pies at Thanksgiving, for my own family gathering and for friend's and other relative's family gatherings - and I love every minute of it. When I managed the bake shop, my very first Thanksgiving there I sold 60 of my pecan pies, 40 of my salted caramel apple pies and 40 pumpkin brûlée pies, and I made every single one myself and I loved doing it. Oddly, though the holidays is hands-down the busiest at home, I miss managing that bake shop at this time of year more than ever.
But this November, my first serious blogging November, I am NOT gonna talk about pies or baking all month. I am going to run a weekly series about side dishes for all of your holiday meals - four side dishes in these weeks up to Thanksgiving that you will definitely want to try out for any holiday dinner you will be having in the next two months. Cause let's be serious...turkey is good, but the sides dishes on T'giving and Christmas are the shit - the real shit we pile onto our plates, and the real shit we get excited about.
I bring roughly half the side dishes to my family's thanksgiving dinner at my parent's. Me and my mother fight (not seriously) every year for control of certain dishes, and we spend one whole evening this month drinking wine or tea or hot chocolate and pouring through magazines and cookbooks and the internet for holiday recipes. And hell, now with pinterest I have roughly 254,390 recipes to choose from for holidays.
My favorite though, is going through the magazines. My mom, who maybe has a hoarding problem (but for this it is ok with me), has saved every Bon Appetit magazine since...get ready...1978. I am not even f'ing around people! Every. Single. One.
That means 40 Thanksgiving and 40 Christmas issues full of glorious recipes. Both me and my mom pretty much know every recipe in every issue, but we still go through them every year, and talk about what we are making, what we want to make, and, 'remember that one year I made...' and then we discuss the ones that sucked and the ones that were awesome and then we pick what is going on this year's table. I cannot imagine having Thanksgiving without my mother. Like, if I lived far away, I would have to fly home JUST to go through the magazines, that's how much I love this part. Everyone has something that they cannot imagine their life without, and this is an absolute thing for me.
Now my mom likes to be consistent, she is the mom and in typical mom form...she likes the same thing year after year. I, on the other hand, force something new every year - a new way to make brussel sprouts, a different sweet potato dish, a new pie...whatever it is, there has to be something we try that is different. Most of the time they work out, but a few times they sucked, but still, it makes for good balance and keeps our family interested and always experiencing something different. And when things suck, we laugh and immediately begin to fight about what we are going to do next year.
So there you have it (now that I have talked endlessly) a little thing of mine that I love about the holidays, and something that I feel super lucky I get to have, and one day my mom will give Thanksgiving over to me, and I will happily take it, but I will still go over to her house and go through those magazines with her...and mom, if you read this (I think you're one of my only fans lol) I promise we will have the exact same corn, roasted carrots and relish tray that we always have, cause you'll be bringing them 🙂
But on to the first side dish of November...a green bean casserole for this century. Funny thing is - we have never had green bean casserole in my mother's house for any holiday ever. We eat broccoli casserole instead. But I was fascinated by this dish because it looked really good to me. Also I was bizarrely obsessed with making things with condensed cream soups when I was in my late teens and 20's (I can't stop laughing right now as I type this - who the f--k is obsessed with condensed cans of soup), and i have no f'ing idea why.
My mom is not a green bean eater so it simply wasn't a thing for us growing up. SO when I was finally in my own apartment it was seriously one of the first things I made - I mixed the cream of mushroom soup, the Worcestershire...all of it with canned green beans and topped with onions out a god damn canister. I ate the shit out of that dish - by myself, my roommate thought I was pregnant - I wasn't then, but the next week I was 🙂
Fast forward 18 years and pinterest showed me that you can make this dish better and actually from scratch - not the 'from scratch' i thought I was doing by not buying it ready made...actual from scratch. I sauteed mushrooms and onions, I made a rue which i turned into a sharp cheddar cheese sauce. I boiled fresh green beans and I ate the shit out of this one too - and it was so so so much better.
This dish is modern and delicious, and your family will be blown away with how much better a traditional dish can be with the smallest amount of extra effort.
Oh, and you can totally still use the canister of fried onions, or you can fry up your own like the original recipe calls for...my kids are not fans of onions so adapted and put a salty buttery Ritz cracker and Parmesan crumble on the top that I encourage you to try, no one will be disappointed you did.
And since I am always up for new things, I would love to hear from any of you readers a classic dish you have updated...it could make a run on my table one of these years, my mom will be SUPER happy, just so long as it isn't corn or carrots lol. xoxo
Green bean casserole for this century - adapted from Closet Cooking
- 2 pounds green beans trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms sliced
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- ½ teaspoon thyme chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup cheddar grated
- salt and pepper to taste
For the butter crumb topping
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¾ cup crushed ritz crackers
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon of thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the green beans, cook until they just start to turn tender and plunge then them into cold water.
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms start to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Sprinkle then mix the flour in and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Add the broth and cream and simmer until it thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cheese and let it melt, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- Mix the green beans into the mushroom sauce and pour into a baking dish.
- For the topping, melt the butter in a saute pan. Add the Ritz crumbs and thyme and saute til combined and slightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. stir the parmesan cheese into the crumb mixture. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the green beans.
- Bake until the sides are bubbling and the top is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.