Green bean casserole is a dish that has haunted my dreams. I have made several versions of it for Americans working in Vancouver over their Thanksgiving Holiday. For the first Thanksgiving I catered, I googled ‘American Thanksgiving classics’ just to make sure I didn’t miss out on anyone’s favourites. I wasn’t expecting it to be too much different from ours, and it wasn’t, except for this mystery casserole (oh yeah, also the marshmallow yams…).
I knew I couldn’t buy canned mushroom soup and boxed fried onions to serve over green beans for people who were at their most thankful (and paying me actual money). Not in good conscience anyway. So green bean casserole became something I thought about a disproportionate amount in October/November. I have made it with real mushrooms and heavy cream, topped with deep fried shallots, I’ve made it with a rich, gluten-free mascarpone béchamel, dried porcinis and double smoked bacon and now, years later, I have my most current version, the one I am most proud of.
Whether gb casserole is a part of conversation in your household this time of year, or you are like I was, Canadian and gbc-ignorant, this is something you are going to want to try. To say it is gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based doesn’t drum up a lot of enthusiasm in times of comfort food requirements, I’m well aware of this. Don’t worry, despite its pure soul, it is just as rich and decadent as the original. The dairy is replaced by some blended up nuts and hemp hearts, the mushrooms are as wild as you can find them, and the (3 ingredient), extremely addictive crispy onions can almost be considered straight up health food.
Because this casserole is less deeply ingrained in my traditional food brain than most Americans, I feel comfortable making other big changes to it too. Brussels sprouts go really well with the flavours and textures that green beans have been swimming in for all of these years. And if we cut them in half, those cabbage-y layers will absorb that creamy mushroom sauce like it was their life’s purpose. Or what about wilted kale, tossed with the creamy mushroom sauce with addition of the crispy onion texture contrast? This is not to upset anyone, green beans will always be there, but other green veggies are so much more delicious in November where I live.
Despite its impressive health stats, you can take this to a Thanksgiving (or Canadian Christmas?) party, without feeling like you brought the tofu turkey freak show that everyone is going to ask you questions about. It doesn’t look or taste vegan, it doesn’t even look particularly healthy aside from the green beans (or your rebellious green vegetable of choice). The only thing people will wonder about is why you are looking so good, where your cooking skills came from, and whether there is gluten in it (people always wonder about that).
Just like you don’t need an excuse or a special date to focus on being thankful (especially after the last week of world events, reminding us to hug our loved ones tighter), you don’t need a special day to make this recipe. Try it today (or tomorrow, after obligatory nut-soaking). My British friend/champion houseguest and Canadian husband loved it (especially with the Brussels) and if anyone else gives it a try, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.
- ½ c Leek, diced
- 2-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 2 Thyme sprigs (either chop up the leaves or throw it in whole)
- 3-400g (or 4-5 cups) Mushrooms, sliced
- ½ c Parsley, chopped
- 6-800g Green Beans (or brussels sprouts)
- 1 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Sea(weed) salt to taste
- ½ c Cashews or Walnuts, soaked for 8 hours, drained and rinsed
- ¼ c Hemp Hearts
- ½ c of the cooked leek/garlic/mushroom mixture above
- 1 c Water
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- Sea(weed) Salt to taste
- 1 medium Onion, sliced (preferably on a mandolin) about 3mm thin
- ½ c Chickpea Flour (buy or make yourself by grinding up dry chickpeas in a good blender until fine)
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Sea(weed) Salt to taste
- In a large pan, in 1 tsp of coconut oil and a splash of water, sweat the mushrooms, leek, garlic and thyme together until the leeks are translucent and the mushrooms are soft and cooked.
- In a blender, put the soaked nuts, hemp hearts, ½ c of the cooked mushroom mixture, water and lemon juice and blend until very smooth.
- Trim the stem end off of the beans (if using brussels sprouts, trim the ends off and cut them in half)
- Steam the beans (or brussels) until almost cooked but still bright green (1-2 minutes depending on the size of the beans or if you're using brussels, the key is to keep them green).
- Add to the mushroom mixture.
- Top with the cream and parsley, mix everything together well.
- Transfer contents to a casserole dish (or any oven-safe dish/pot/individual dishes)
- Either refrigerate (without the onions) until ready to heat and serve or cover and bake in the oven for 15 minutes and then top with your prepared onions for the last few minutes and serve.
- Preheat the oven to 300*F
- Slice the onions and toss them in a bowl with the chickpea flour until all the the rings are separated and coated.
- Melt the coconut oil on parchment-lined baking sheet (just put in the oven for a few seconds to melt it)
- Scatter the flour-dredged onions out on the baking warm, oiled baking sheet so that they all have reasonable amounts of room (see picture).
- Roast for about 15 minutes and then take them out and using a pair of tongs, toss them around and flip them over to encourage even cooking and oil distribution.
- Roast for another 10-15 minutes or until crispy and slightly golden.
- Optional: sprinkle with sea(weed) salt
- Scatter on top of the warm bean casserole.
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