Photos by Rikki Snyder
Just because something is a classic doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no room for improvement. Case in point: When I was a kid, my family spent Thanksgiving one year with the neighbors, including their gourmet-cook grandmother. Said grandmother was put in charge of the green bean casserole; imagine the gasps from my family members as she tipped a bottle of chardonnay into the bubbling pot of canned cream of mushroom soup. Half an hour later though, there were more gasps—this time of delight. She’d taken green bean casserole to a whole new level.
Why use water when you can use wine? That was the gourmet grandma’s rule of thumb, and that’s the lesson I remember from that day. Okay, maybe that substitution doesn’t work all the time, but let’s just say wine is at least worth a shot in dishes like savory veggie casseroles. I’ve taken that lesson a few steps further and classed up the old green bean casserole even more. Why use cream of mushroom soup when you can use homemade vegan mushroom sauce? Why use prepackaged French-fried onions when you can fry your own onions?
I kid you not when I say these changes made the best dang green bean casserole I’ve ever tasted. This stuff was amazing. Not “there might not be any leftovers” amazing, but, “there might not be any casserole that actually makes it to the table” amazing.
The work required for this vegan green bean casserole is a bit more extensive than with the traditional version, but it’s worth it, not just to make the dish vegan, but to knock the socks off of every attendee at dinner. You can do a few things to mitigate that extra work. First, the French-fried onions need to soak for at least 30 minutes. Why not start them early in the morning or even the day before? Stick them in a storage container and refrigerate until ready to serve. You can also mix up the flour coating for the onions ahead of time, so when you’re ready for frying, they’re ready for you. You can also chop your veggies, or even do all of the stovetop steps for the casserole portion of this recipe, ahead of time. Put the casserole into a baking dish and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. Better yet, if you’ve got a cooking vessel that can handle the stovetop and baking steps, use it, and avoid having to transfer the casserole and dirty another dish. A 10″ cast-iron skillet works perfectly here.
This post was originally published on November 13, 2014.
For the French fried onion topping:
For the casserole:
Make the French fried onions:
Start the casserole:
The green bean casserole portion of this dish can be prepared in advance up to the baking step. Allow the casserole to cool after it's finished simmering and either transfer it to a storage container or refrigerate in the dish you plan to bake it in. You can begin soaking your onions and mix the flour coating early in the day. Start the coating and frying process when your casserole has about 10 minutes of baking time left.
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