I love Thanksgiving. Food, family, not working on a Thursday, football. Food. Thanksgiving has it all.* Unless you’re planning on doing some banking, mailing of letters or fasting, in which case you’re sadly out of luck. Still, the food.
The thing I don’t particularly like about Thanksgiving is actually… some of the food. Awkward! Look, I dig turkey, mashed potatoes, turducken stuffed with stuffed jalapenos, all of that. But green bean casserole is not something I think of as being terrifically edible. Yeah, I know, that’s un-American. Fine. It’s just that I have a shaky history with green beans. We’re only now getting to a place where there’s trust.
As a kid, the braised (read: mushy), southern style green beans – beloved by many – sat alongside wilted spinach on my short list of arch-nemeses. The mushiness, the taste – everything grossed me out. Still does. Needless to say, things would’ve been different in our house if the kid version of me had been calling the shots. Instead, I lived to adulthood and eventually got to liking green beans, if not their classic treatments.
For my taste, green beans need to be al dente. If they don’t have a little snap, they’re over-done. With that in mind, I’m going with some simple green beans for the Thanksgiving spread, incorporating some of the flavors and components from both green bean casserole (mushrooms, something oniony, gratuitous salt) and southern style green beans (pig product!, more salt), but cooked quickly so as to retain some snap. Call it deconstructed green bean casserole. Hahaha… I’m just kidding. Whatever you do, don’t call it “deconstructed green bean casserole” or everyone will assume you’re a dishbag. This is just green beans: a little different than usual – something familiar in a not-altogether-unfamiliar package. Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving (in a week) everybody!**
Oh, and a peace offering for fans of green bean casserole who read this far: the inventor is old but still alive (as of 2010), which is kind of awesome.
Grilled Green Beans and Mushrooms with Balsamic Shallot Brown Butter
(try saying that real fast; serves about 4)
2 heaping handfuls of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
handful of fresh mushrooms
1 piece of cooked bacon, crumbled
tsp minced garlic
This is great for making the night before. Reheat at 350 and prepare brown butter right before serving. If you add the brown butter the night before, the mushrooms will drink it all.
1. After you’ve trimmed your green beans, give them another rinse, then toss them with a little olive oil and the garlic. In this case, you want them to still be a little wet. The purpose is to help the beans steam – not usually a desirable element in grilling, but green beans don’t handle grilling as readily as a vegetable like asparagus does. The steam helps them cook gently, and keeps them from getting burnt to a crisp on the outside. Grill the beans over high heat (preferably in a veggie basket or on a grill pan), shaking and moving the beans around frequently, every 30 seconds or so, until they’re bright green and getting some grill marks. Do a taste test and pull them when they’re just under your preferred level of doneness. Mine took about 10 minutes.
2. Toss the mushrooms in a little oil (I used olive oil cooking spray) and grill until, like the beans, they’re slightly tender and getting some color, about 3-4 minutes.
3. Toss green beans, mushrooms and bacon together, salt and taste. Serve tossed with…
Balsamic Shallot Brown Butter
2 tbsp butter
1 or 2 shallot bulbs, minced
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, turn the heat down to low and let the shallots sweat until fragrant and the butter turns light golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar, toss the sauce with the green beans and serve.
*The only thing that would make it better would be presents, maybe some flashy yard lights. Oh, and a less earthy color scheme. But then Christmas would look kind of desperate, I guess. Unless Christmas answered by adding fireworks and becoming a slutty costume holiday, like Halloween.
**Unless you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving for some reason (ex: Canadian citizenship), in which case I hope you have a decent next Thursday.