The green bean casserole is my number one favorite side dish of the season! Growing up it didn’t get much better than the classic Del Monte canned beans with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, topped with French’s Fried Onions. I’m guessing most American households serve something quite similar.
I’ve seen recipes for homemade versions (aka – recipes that don’t call for products from a can) of this classic everywhere, and I’ve tried quite a few with some success, but I’ve never quite nailed the tender, creamy, and crispy nature of this dish that I’ve grown up loving…until now! Let’s just be honest, bacon makes everything better!
Key steps that make a world of difference:
- A salt bath for the fresh beans! I just rinsed my fresh green beans and submerged them in a bowl of very salty water for about an hour.
- Bacon grease is your friend. This flavorful fat is what sets everything apart, but careful not to overdo it, just pour off what you need.
- Leeks! Who knew this could be such a wonderful substitute? I thought it couldn’t get much better than the classic French’s (which are still delicious by the way) but the delicate onion flavor and light crisp texture the fried leeks added was a fabulous new twist and one I’ll be keeping for years to come.
I used a combination of both leeks and half a small yellow onion to create the fried toping. Next time I think I will just stick to leeks because I loved their flavor and texture so much.
The recipe was a huge hit at our “Friends-giving” party. If you’re ever unsure about some recipes or you just want some practice before the big ‘game day’ I suggest hosting a pot luck so you can practice. Who doesn’t love an excuse to indulge in these recipes over and over again?
Green Bean Casserole with Bacon & Crispy Leeks
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large leek, white part only cut in to thin strips
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko or plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola, safflower, peanut or other high-heat oil, for deep-frying
3 tablespoons Bacon fat (or butter)
6-8 strips of crispy bacon
12 ounces mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 to 1 1/2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed and snapped to bite-size
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Begin with a salt bath for the green beans. I let mine soak in the saltiness for about 1 hour to absorb some flavor.
While your beans are soaking- it’s a good time to fry up the onions. Toss your leeks (and/or onions) with flour, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Heat around 1-2 inches of oil in a a large frying dish. I used my deep dutch oven which helped keep the splatter to a minimum. Working in batches, about one handful at a time fry until a light golden brown (remember they get more color in the oven). As you remove the onions from the fry pot let oil drip off as much as possible and drain on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Then sprinkle with sea salt while they’re still hot. Set aside till ready for topping.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Blanch the green beans- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook beans for 3-5 minutes.Don’t over cook, you want them just barely tender. Drain the beans, then plunge them into ice water to stop them from cooking and retain their beautiful vibrant green color. Drain again, and set aside.
Assemble the skillet: In a large 12-inch cast iron skillet set to medium-high heat fry up your bacon strips until crispy. Remove the bacon, chop to bite-size bits and spoon off any excess bacon fat. You only need about 2-3 tbs in there- just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste and saute them until they start releasing their liquid, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add your bacon bits back to the skillet, add the minced garlic and saute for about one more minute.
Add the flour and stir it until it fully coats everything. Begin adding the broth, just 1/4 cup at a time, stirring the whole time to keep the flour from getting lumpy. Simmer mixture for 1 minute, then add cream and bring back to a simmer, cooking until the sauce thickens a bit, about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the blanched green beans to the skillet and toss till all are coated with the creamy goodness. Sprinkle crispy leeks and onions over the top. Bake for 15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling around the edges and onions are a shade darker. Eat at once!