Friday, November 21, 2008

Enlightened Green Bean Casserole...

A recent typical photo of me, puttering in my kitchen as I like to do.

My guess is that even more ubiquitous to the American holiday home than the lighted ceramic Christmas tree is the green bean casserole, that scary concoction of processed foods-- cream of mushroom soup (one serving surely contains a year's supply of sodium), a tin of crispy French onions, and a can or two of green beans.

I believe this recipe was created in the 1950's, when the ease and speed of putting together meals from processed foods must have seemed like a sweet dream to cute little apron-wearing, high-heeled, be-pearled homemakers across America. And it's been a mainstay of the holiday table ever since. I grew up eating and loving this casserole (those crunchy onions on top-- mmmm!), and my mom still makes it every year. My entire family likes to have this dish on the table for holiday meals, even if the reality of the ingredients is a bit frightening. There's just something tasty and comforting and nouveau-traditional about green bean casserole.

So, imagine my joy two years ago when the Oregonian published an enlightened version of this traditional holiday fare. And the recipe was created, no less, by a wonderful, award-winning chef, who is known for her use of good, fresh, high-quality produce and ingredients.

I happily made this casserole for both Thanksgiving and Christmas the year of the recipe's discovery and for Christmas and Thanksgiving last year. We'll be having it again next Thursday when the family gathers round the Thanksgiving table and for our Christmas dinner, too. There's a bit more preparation and cooking involved in making this new recipe than dumping cans of ingredients into a casserole dish, but the extra effort is rewarded by superior taste, nutrition, and presentation. My entire family greatly prefers this over the original casserole.

I was talking with my mom on the phone a few mornings ago, and she asked what was on our Thanksgiving menu. I started listing what we'd be cooking, saying that tradition rules with an iron fist in our household, so there's not a lot of grace to tweak menus and try new things. And that includes the old green bean casserole, I said. But then I added that I had discovered a "real food" version of it two years ago, and the family loved it, so we've been serving it ever since.

Mom was quite enthused about this and asked for the recipe, so I took the newspaper clipping to the computer and began to type it out for her when I got the idea to google the short article. Hopefully, it was on the internet... Yes! I love Google! And as I was printing Mom's recipe this morning, I thought, "Why not put it up at my blog, too?" Maybe someone out there will be as happy as I was to find this:

Stephanie Kimmel's Green Bean Casserole, Revisted

Oh, yes, and lookee what we have here--
the history of the green bean casserole, courtesy of that wonder of encyclopedias, Wikipedia.