A Holiday Tradition Upgraded

Christmas is around the corner. That means a lot of decorating, socializing with friends and family, presents, and holiday cooking; in other words, holiday traditions. I love most holiday traditions until they become too predictable – and then I find that they no longer allow me to enjoy the season. 

This is especially true with my holiday meals. The Christmas menu was set long ago and it’s considered blasphemy to deviate from it. You must always have Turkey or ham, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and the ever-present green bean casserole. For many people, including my wife, the traditions of Christmas food are part of childhood memories. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give them a little make-over!

I made a green bean casserole this Thanksgiving, but I upgraded it a bit. Instead of the traditional recipe from the back of the soup can, I made it from scratch including a basic béchamel sauce. The only processed ingredient was the French-fried onions, which I probably could have replicated - but why kill yourself!

The casserole was a hit and, following Thanksgiving, was one of the first left-overs consumed from the fridge. So, this year, why not make a small change and upgrade one or two of your traditions? I suggest starting small with one dish or one activity.

Live, Laugh, Love and Enjoy the holidays while eating well!

BA’s Best Green Bean Casserole

Courtesy of Bon Appetit

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP olive oil divided
  • 1 pound cremini (or baby bella) mushrooms, sliced, divided
  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 Large sprigs thyme, fresh
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely grated (or substitute 3 TBSP minced garlic)
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup French-fried Onions (store bought)
Pro Tip: You can blanch the green beans ahead if you are pressed for time on the day of the big meal.

Working in small batches, blanch the green beans in a large pot of boiling water for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from boiling water with slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet to let cool. Repeat until all the beans have been processed. NOTE: If you use an ice bath to quench the beans, you may want to increase initial baking time by 10 to 15 minutes as beans may be a little undercooked. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 TBSP oil to the skillet. Cook half of the mushrooms without stirring until they are brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 3 more minutes. Add 2 TBSP butter to the pan with 2 sprigs of the thyme. Continue to cook, tossing occasionally until butter browns and the mushrooms are dark brown and very tender, about 4 more minutes. Season with salt and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil, mushrooms, butter, thyme, and salt. Set aside.

In the large saucepan, melt the remaining 2 TBSP of butter over medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking occasionally, until the roux is golden brown and smells mildly nutty, about 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cream. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer, whisking often until the béchamel sauce is thick and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the garlic, Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Arrange the green beans and mushrooms in a 2-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over the vegetables (it doesn’t look like enough, but it is). Cover tightly with foil and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until casserole is lightly browned around the edges, 15 to 20 more minutes. Top with the onions and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the onions start to brown and become fragrant. Let casserole sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Click Here to download a printable PDF of the recipes for this week!