One day in 1955, Dorcas Reilly — a well-respected home economist whose parents actually named her that — tinkered in an industrial food lab.
Little did Dorcas know that her experimental blend of two tinny staples — Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and canned green beans — would become an American culinary institution: green bean casserole.
Dorcas just assumed that the convenience-minded home cooks of the era would probably have these items on hand. She would soon be surprised to learn that people served their families a chunky, white paste — that so often has the texture of hot, oniony mucous.
Though aesthetically unsettling, the pick — one of the few vegetable dishes that might be as bad for you as not eating vegetables — continues to be popular, especially around the holidays. The plate — space-age consumer kitsch on the dinner table — so perfectly embodies 1950s culture that Dorcas’s recipe has been honored in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, alongside Thomas Edison’s lightbulb.
Stephanie Izard, Top Chef champion and proprietor of Chicago’s Girl and Goat, has shared her own approach to the longtime favorite. She grew up with the canned version, but steers clear of condensed ingredients in this recipe.
Stephanie Izard’s Green Bean Casserole
by Stephanie Izard of Girl and Goat
adapted from Girl in the Kitchen, Izard’s new cookbook
For the mushroom soup:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pint button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, at room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons sambal paste
freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and garlic and sweat by cooking until the shallots are translucent, for about 5 minutes, but don’t brown them. Add the mushrooms and sweat them for 5 more minutes. Add the flour and stir, to coat the mushrooms. Whisk in the milk and continue to whisk, for several minutes to avoid lumps. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking often. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the soup has the consistency of canned mushroom soup. Season with sambal, salt, and pepper. Thick soup is best for the casserole. If too thick, thin with additional milk.
For the casserole:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound fresh maitake mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1 shallot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over high heat. Add mushrooms, shallots, and garlic, and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Add green beans and blanch by boiling them for about 2 minutes — until they are bright green and barely tender. Put the beans in the ice bath and drain. Place them on a paper towel to dry. In a large bowl, combine the green beans, mushrooms, and soup base. Mix well and transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for about 35 minutes, until thoroughly heated.
For the crispy shallots:
oil for frying
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 shallots, very thinly sliced into rounds
freshly ground black pepper
In a fryer or heavy-bottomed pan with high sides, heat the oil to 375°F. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and cornstarch while casserole is baking. Toss the shallots in the mixture, then shake well in a sieve to remove excess flour. Add half of the shallots to the fryer and move them around with tongs while frying, to avoid clumping. When lightly browned, strain and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining shallots. Top the casserole with the crispy shallots and serve.