And just like that, it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Well, it’s Canadian Thanksgiving. Apologies if I inspired any panic attacks among my American readers. I always look at our Thanksgiving as the kick-off to the holiday season. This is more or less our practice run. A chance to revisit and hone our mashed potato technique, brush up on our pastry skills, and remind ourselves that we can indeed arrange a mildly attractive cheese plate. We need this proofing ground this year more than ever. Some of us will be dusting off our stemware for the first time in a long time. So before I launch into the nuances of this Horseradish Green Bean Casserole, I want to assure you that we’ve totally got this.
I did some light entertaining over the summer and I can’t say it was exactly like riding a bike. I found myself far more exhausted and flustered than I ever remembered being. So my return to dinner parties was less like riding a bike and more like taking a hiatus from running. Sure, it won’t exactly feel like you’re starting from scratch but you will pay dearly for your delinquency. But now that I’ve once again found my entertaining legs – that is a weird sentence but you know what I mean – I feel like I can do the Thanksgiving thing, which brings me to this Horseradish Green Bean Casserole.
Now, I didn’t grow up with green bean casserole. It just wasn’t a thing in my house for whatever reason, but I was always conscious of it. Having come of age with American television as a guide, I got the gist of the dish and this was my impression. Green bean casserole is a much-beloved relic of the ’50s and ’60s that wins a place at the table because of nostalgia. In spite of being widely consumed it is not generally respected. It’s considered to be a “guilty pleasure” as it is more or less a layer cake of prepackaged goods. This characteristic is also what gives the casserole its distinct air of Americana. How am I doing? Am I close?
If you didn’t grow up in the US or happen to catch reruns of Saved By the Bell in your youth, allow me to explain what a green bean casserole is. The original green bean casserole was the invention of home economist Dorcas Reilly who work for the Campbell Soup Company. She combined the company’s condensed cream of mushroom soup with green beans and a legend was born. Today, 40% of the cans of cream of mushroom soup Campbell’s sells in the US goes into green bean casseroles. The topper for this perennial Thanksgiving favorite is canned fried onions, usually French’s.
So now that you know what the original green bean casserole is, let’s start messing with it. You will not find a can of soup listed in the ingredients. Thought I’d rip that Bandaid off quickly. Instead, we’re going to make a thick bechamel and use that as our base. Why? Because you have so much more control over the flavor, there’s way less sodium, and it’s not that difficult to pull off. Honestly, a thick bechamel can be used anywhere a can of soup is called for. And when you’ve made a bechamel once, you can pretty much make it in your sleep. If you have made a bechamel before, a thick bechamel just requires a little more flour. We’re not reinventing the wheel here.
Our thick bechamel comes to life with the help of sauteed mushrooms and shallots, Dijon mustard, and a heaping tablespoon of horseradish. The horseradish is optional but I think it works exceptionally well here. It gives the dish a much-needed vinegar high note. To the thick bechamel, we add blanched green beans. Not canned green beans, not cooked within an inch of their life green beans. We want blanched green beans. And that means we’re going to introduce them to boiling water for no more than 3 minutes before plunging them into an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process.
And finally, let’s talk onions. In place of the canned fried onions, we’re going to use pakora onions. Are they more work? Yes. Are they worth it? Absolutely! And honestly, they’re not that much work. They come together faster than a batch of pancakes. They just take longer than popping open a can. The best way to approach these golden beauties is to make them while your casserole is in the oven. So, but the time the Horseradish Green Bean Casserole emerges hot and bubbling from the oven, your pakora onions will be done and still crisp and fresh.
I know many recipes suggest topping the casserole and crisping the onions in the oven. But I don’t subscribe to that approach. I think the less time your onions spend on top of a steam-spewing hot casserole the better. That’s why I prefer to fry, top, and serve as quickly as possible.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Horseradish Green Bean Casserole with Pakora Onions. A gourmet, slightly off-kilter take on the classic American Thanksgiving side.
Horseradish Green Bean Casserole with Pakora Onions
- 11×7 oval casserole dish
- Large skillet
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 454g (1 lb) cremini mushrooms sliced
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp prepared horseradish heaping
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 400g (14oz) green beans cut in half
- 1 batch Pakora Onions for topping, see below
- 2 cups chickpea flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2-3 green chilis thinly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro coarsely chopped
- 1 yellow onion cut into half moons
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup neutral oil for frying
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté the onions until just translucent. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant. About 30 seconds more. Add the mushrooms and cook until well-browned and softened. About 5 minutes.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion, 2 cloves garlic, 454g (1 lb) cremini mushrooms
- Remove the mushrooms and onions from the skillet using a slotted spoon. Add the butter to the skillet and melt. Whisk in the flour to form a roux. Slowly whisk in the white wine, and milk to form a thick bechamel. Return the mushrooms and onions to the skillet along with the mustard, horseradish, and salt. Stir to combine. Take the skillet off of the heat and set it aside.¼ cup unsalted butter, ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup white wine, 1 cup whole milk, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp prepared horseradish, ½ tsp kosher salt
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, salt it generously and add the green beans. Cook for no more than 3 minutes before transferring to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.400g (14oz) green beans
- Drain the green beans and place them in the mushroom bechamel. Toss to coat. Transfer the beans to an 11×7" casserole dish and bake for 15-20 minutes. Take the casserole out of the oven and top with fresh pakora onions (see below). Serve immediately.1 batch Pakora Onions
For the Pakora Onions **
- In a large bowl whisk to combine the chickpea flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the chilis, cilantro, and onions. Using your hands, toss to coat the ingredients in the flour mixture and tease the onions apart. Slowly stir in the warm water until a batter forms. It should be roughly the consistency of pancake batter.2 cups chickpea flour, ½ tsp baking powder, 1 tsp kosher salt, 2-3 green chilis, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, 1 yellow onion, 1 cup warm water
- Heat the oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Using tongs, grab onion pieces and add them to the oil. It's fine if I few stick together and form clusters. Don't overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden on both sides, this should go fairly quickly.1 cup neutral oil
- Transfer the finished pakora onions to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle the onions with additional salt and place them on top of the green bean casserole fresh from the oven. Serve immediately.