Americans love to find seemingly unique ways to mix different kinds of processed foods together and call it cooking with a recipe. A prime example of this phenomenon is something I like to call the White Trash Bean Casserole. I think most people would know it as Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole. It’s simple to make, loaded with sodium, and probably has very little real nutritional value. Oh, and if you like processed food, it tastes pretty amazing. All you need is canned green beans (cause those taste great!), cream of mushroom soup (don’t get low fat), and a can of french fried onions (really, what else would you do with them). Mix it together and voila!
I grew up eating this every on every holiday, and when I moved in with my husband and was finding my way around the kitchen, this beauty appeared on our dinner table a few times. He grew up in a house where everything was prepared from scratch so had never experienced this wondrous side dish. I think he thought I was smoking something when I made it the first time. Needless to say it wasn’t a hit with him and I was eventually banned from making it. But lucky for me, I still get to enjoy this casserole in all its trashy goodness when I visit my mom. I secretly love it…it’s my dirty little secret!
On a recent trip to the US of A we were at Fred Meyer and as Thanksgiving is nearing, they had a special aisle-end area devoted solely to the green bean casserole. My husband couldn’t believe it. He had no idea that anyone other than my family made this! I guess he never looked closely at the french fried onions can because there’s a picture of the casserole right there.
I’m not knocking the millions of Americans who love this holiday tradition, but you have to admit, it’s pretty trailer park. Call it a guilty pleasure, a time saver, but whatever you do, please don’t call it cooking.
So this Thanksgiving if you want to put something a little more nutritious on your table to go with your bird, you can try my version of green beans. It’s pretty simple, I just blanch them in a pot of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes, and then immediately plunge them into an ice bath. Once they’re completely cool, remove them and let them air dry and cut them in half or thirds. In the meantime, saute some cherry or grape tomatoes (halved or quartered depending on their size) with some olive oil and minced garlic over medium heat until the tomatoes sort of burst. Add the beans to the saute pan and cook over medium heat until the beans are warmed. Season with salt and pepper and top with freshly grated cheese (asiago or parm works best). The nice thing about these beans is that they taste just as good at room temperature! If you’re feeling really adventurous you can even add a dollop of your favourite pesto to this one, the flavours will mesh very well.
So no pressure to try something new, but if you’re sick of ye old green bean casserole give this one a whirl. Otherwise enjoy what has become an American holiday staple, like mashed potatoes out of a box, cranberry sauce from a can, and gravy from a packet…behold the White Trash Green Bean Casserole!