Thanksgiving for 2, 2012: Sides and Dessert, Kitchenette Style
Since “tradition” keeps coming up as an (unintended) theme in these Thanksgiving for 2 posts, I started looking into the tradition of green bean casserole.
The short version is that it was created in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly in the Campbell Soup Co.’s test kitchen. Reilly was charged with creating a simple yet tasty recipe with things usually on hand in a 1950 American kitchen. It doesn’t seem to have originally had ties to the Thanksgiving table — apparently, we have a 1955 Associated Press feature piece to thank for that — but it is without a doubt now cemented as a traditional dish for generations.
But for every person who love, love, loves this sloppy, un-fussy, dump-and-bake classic, there is another who finds it foul. For some, it’s the cream of mushroom soup from a can factor, for others it’s an opportunity to lament horrifying use of packaged foods in our modern society. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get up on a soapbox… as much as I love cooking whole foods and real ingredients and try to not get too crazy when shopping the middle of the grocery store all that jazz, I also think good ole sloppy green bean casserole tastes like awesome, cans and all. There aren’t that many things in the world that taste just as good when you’re an adult as they did when you were a kid and this is one of ’em.
But guess what, whiners? Green bean casserole doesn’t have to be disgusting. Or come out of cans. You can even make this vegetable side actually 100 percent vegetarian. And if you hate greasy, weird onion things out of a can (okay, those are not my favorite part, not after having fresh-fried onions), there’s a way around that, too. So here’s to having your cake (or in this case, casserole) and eating it, too. Give it a whirl and tell me which you like better, because I am very curious….
… and speaking of dessert: As much as I love pie in general and pumpkin pie in particular, the last thing I need is a pie made for eight people staring at me every time I walk into the kitchen for days on end, begging to be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I know I keep telling you I don’t really bake and then slapping recipies for pies and stuff on here, but guys, if I can make this, you can make this, just sayin’. My two-person pumpkin pie is the perfect fix for the looming leftover pie situation, plus you get to tell people you had half a pie all to yourself without going up a jeans size, ha (and if your husband is sad that there is not more pie, well, it’s easily doubled, so surprise him. But only after he’s done the dishes).
Have a great Thanksgiving, whether it’s for two or two dozen!
The Kitchenette’s Homemade Green Bean Casserole with Frizzled Shallots
One of the cool things about this homemade version is that you can make all the components in advance and just throw them together — as easily as the soup-from-the-can version — on Thanksgiving Day.
3 large shallots, divided, 2 sliced thin and 1 diced
1 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 Tablespoon
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed and beans cut into 2-ish inch bits
4 ounces white button mushrooms, diced small
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
Start with a room-temperature pan (trust me). Put 1 cup vegetable oil and sliced shallots in a medium saucepan, then put saucepan over high heat. Cook shallots, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir constantly for another 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the shallots as they turn golden brown.
Quickly drain through a fine mesh sieve and then dump onto a paper towel-lined plate, blotting thoroughly and changing out paper towels if necessary, until most of the grease is blotted off.
(The frizzled shallots can be stored in an airtight container on the counter for up to two weeks.)
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or medium pot, bring four cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Ready a large bowl of ice water and a colander or sieve that fits inside the bowl.
Once the water boils, blanche the trimmed green beans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Transfer green beans immediately to colander and dunk colander in ice water bath, cooling the green beans. When completely chilled, set green beans aside to drain. (The blanched green beans can be stored in an airtight container in the ‘fridge for up to a week.)
Next, make the mushroom cream sauce: In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil over high heat. When butter has melted completely, add remaining 1 sliced shallot and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid has evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until golden and nutty smelling, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add stock first, then cream and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until mixture is thickened and passes the back-of-the-spoon test, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The mushroom cream sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the ‘fridge for up to a week.)
Off heat, stir blanched green beans into mushroom sauce. Pour the mixture into a 6-cup baking dish. (The green bean casserole can be made up to this point two days in advance, covered and stored in the ‘fridge. Bring to room temperature before baking.)
Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 15 minutes. Top with fried shallots and bake another 15 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve warm.
Two-Person Pumpkin Pie
For the filling:
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
dash of salt
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 375.
First, make the crust: In a small bowl, combine flour and salt. Smoosh in the butter bits with your fingers until crumbly. Add the cold water, a little bit at a time, gently smooshing until dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. When you’re ready, roll out into a circle to fit a 6″ pie pan. Transfer to a pie pan and trim and flue the edges.
In a medium bowl, mix brown and granulated sugars, spices and salt. Stir in beaten egg. When is it thoroughly incorporated, stir in pumpkin puree and cream. Pour into pie crust and bake on the center rack for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour before serving (it will be all lovely and puffed-up when it comes out of the oven so don’t be disappointed when it collapses back down as it cools….).
*I am really off the whole over-priced, commercial pumpkin-pie spice thing. For starters, there is nothing special in there. Also, if you bake and/cook even a little, everything you need for pumpkin pie spice is in your spice rack and you don’t need to spend another $6 on things you already have, just to have it take up space in your already cramped kitchen and probably get thrown out from oldness before you use it all.
Just take these things, whisk them together and store in a wee airtight container (old, washed spice bottle, maybe?) for enough pie spice to get you through the holiday season: 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 Tablespoon ground ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves, 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. You’re welcome.