Simple Sides: Not Grandma’s Green Bean Casserole
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
As synonymous with this month’s Easter Sunday celebrations as the proverbial egg hunt, the green bean casserole has become an obligatory dish on every buffet table across American since the 1950s. Specifically, the original recipe came out of the test kitchens of Campbell’s Soup Company in 1955. While the company was just trying to sell more Cream of Mushroom soup, the dish went viral, 1950s-style, becoming an iconic culinary custom ever since; a rare achievement and the holy grail of all advertising campaigns. The soup company’s original formula of canned soup, frozen green beans and fried onions is still the preferred formula of casserole traditionalists. Unfortunately, as a nutritional time capsule, the recipe also gives witness to the processed-foods diet of the era. Take note that the three key ingredients are either canned, frozen or fried!
Use your Easter Menu Plan to show your young kitchen helpers how to prepare a much healthier version of this infamous casserole recipe using only fresh ingredients. Well, at least nothing canned or frozen; it is a holiday, after all, so a modest amount of potato chip crumbles to top off the celebration is certainly appropriate. Besides, the chips demonstrate to your aspiring chefs how a snack food can be repurposed into a unique and fun ingredient! The dish can and probably should be made a day ahead of time, so the family can prep together in a peaceful kitchen before all the relatives arrive on the actual holiday.
This is also a good recipe for an older child to practice his/her basic knife skills. No real precise cuts are required, just a few very basic slices: halving the beans, a rough-chopped onion and mushrooms sliced thick. COOKING LESSON ALERT: Emphasis this thick cut of the mushrooms to culinary pupils, explaining how mushrooms will reduce in size considerably during the cooking process; for this dish, having some plump mushroom pieces throughout the casserole will add both texture and a deeper, mushroom flavor. Under close supervision, an older child could also be shown the art of blanching the beans with a 3-minute dip in boiling water, immediately followed by a cold water rinse to stop the cooking process.
A younger child can be easily included in the prep too by being assigned to the tasks of measuring out all the other ingredients as well as adding and combining each group of components into the mixing bowl. And, of course, the youngest sous chef should have the hands-on honor of being the family official CCC…Chief Chip Crumble-er! The potato chips also add a slightly salty crunch to each bite. Happy Easter, hope you find all the eggs no matter your age!
Chips ‘N Green Been Casserole
1 pound Green Beans, cut in half crosswise
1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
8 ounces Crimini Mushrooms, sliced thick
½ cup Bread Crumbs
½ cup Reduced-Fat Sour Cream
3 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme
1 cup Mushroom Broth
½ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
3 ounces Onion-Flavored Potato Chips
What the kids can do:
Bring a medium-large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat.
Add green beans and a pinch of salt; cook uncovered until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Drain the beans in a colander, rinse with cold water. Transfer the beans to a large bowl.
Sauté the mushrooms and onion In a medium pan until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add mushrooms and onions to the bowl with the green beans.
Add bread crumbs, sour cream, broth and thyme to the bowl, mix thoroughly until the sour cream has coated the bean completely.
Add the Parmesan cheese to the bowl and toss again.
Transfer to a lightly greased a 9- x 9-inch ovenproof dish, then crumble potato chips over the top, cover with foil. Hand off to supervising adult for the final bake.
What the supervising adult should do:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 15 minutes or until chips turn golden brown. Serve hot, family style.