A Fresh Take on the Thanksgiving Classic
Green bean casseroles have become as synonymous with Thanksgiving dinners as turkey and dressing, with about 20 million Americans passing this vegetable dish around the table.
The original green bean casserole, created in 1955 by Dorcus Reilly in Campbell’s test kitchen, contains six ingredients: Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans, and crunchy fried onions.
Reilly was tasked to create a recipe based on ingredients that any home cook of the day would have on hand, including Campbell’s mushroom soup and green beans. She settled on six simple, affordable ingredients that could be stirred together in a casserole dish and popped into the oven. The prep was minimal, and the dish worked well with frozen or canned green beans. The fried onions were pre-packaged.
"According to the company, 40 percent of its annual mushroom soup sales go toward making this one dish."
In post-war America, many women were entering the workforce yet still largely responsible for preparing the family meals. They wanted cheap, low-fuss hearty dishes. Wartime rations on canned goods were lifted, and the innovations in canning and freezing created a culture of convenience cooking.
Called initially Green Bean Bake, the casserole’s popularity soared when Campbell’s began putting the recipe on its soup cans, and according to the company, 40 percent of its annual mushroom soup sales go toward making this one dish. Dorcas Reilly is also credited for creating tuna noodle casserole.
Although Campbell created green bean casserole, over time, cooks have gotten inventive with the dish’s concept. Years ago, I clipped this recipe from a magazine, and it’s been our annual go-to for green bean casserole.
2 lbs. fresh green beans
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced and divided
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
4 large springs of thyme
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1¼ c heavy cream
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
½ c grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ c French’s fried onions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash green beans and trim the ends.
Working in batches, cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright green and halfway to tenderness, about 3 minutes per batch. Drain and let cool. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook half of the mushrooms, without stirring, until golden brown underneath, about 2 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes more.
Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 thyme sprigs to the pan. Cook, tossing occasionally, until butter browns and mushrooms are dark brown and very tender, about 4 minutes longer.
Season mushrooms with salt and transfer to a plate. Repeat with 2 tablespoons butter, salt, remaining oil, mushrooms, and thyme.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium-low. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking occasionally, until roux is golden brown and smells mildly nutty, about 4 minutes. Whisk in milk and cream Increase heat and bring to a simmer, whisking often, and cook until bechamel sauce is thick and bubbling, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in garlic and Parmesan, season with salt and pepper.
Arrange green beans and mushrooms in a 2-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over (it may not look like enough, but it will get saucier as it bakes). Cover tightly with foil and bake until sauce is bubbling, 25-30 minutes longer.
Top with fried onions and continue to bake just until onions are slightly darker and fragrant about 3 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes to set before serving.