Friday, November 27, 2009

Bob Vila Would Not Spend This Much Time On Green Bean Casserole

My mother is a very systematic person - she keeps notes on how much food everyone eats during Thanksgiving. So when I called her to find out how many pounds of green beans we needed to serve ten people (1.5 pounds is on the safe side) she had historical data on the Supnik family green bean consumption dating back several years.

My original thought was to file this under "things that makes Mom unique"...that is, until I realized that I do the same thing. The Apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I started logging my recipes several years ago when I was teaching myself to cook French sauces. The problem with French sauces is that if you make them frequently enough to really get good at them, you'll die of congestive heart failure before you finish your training period. So I started keeping notes on my recipes to avoid going back to square one every time.

So while normally the purpose of blogging is to rant about things I am unqualified to rant about (in an attempt to build a resume for Fox News), I'm going to start archiving my recipes^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hexperiments here for next year.

Green Bean Casserole the Hard Way

Lori and I were charged with Green Bean Casserole this can find the "classic" recipe here. We made this recipe with two changes:
  1. We used fresh green beans. We microwaved them for, um, a while, to soften them, as they won't cook fully in the casserole.
  2. We made the condensed mushroom soup from scratch. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
(I did give serious thought to frying my own onions, but Thanksgiving involves cooking food, taking it in a car, having it sit, then it gets reheated. I'm not convinced home-fried food would be terribly appealing after such a long wait.)

So about the condensed cream of mushroom soup. Basically we used this recipe, but without any of the chicken stock. We started without the corn starch and water, but when it became clear that we needed thickening power, we added it. We also added some cheese to the casserole because, well, we could.

The results were reasonable I think. The main change I would consider for next time is making the soup even thicker, which could reduce casserole cooking time, either via longer cooking, more corn starch, or both.

Essence of Mushroomy Goodness

As a side note, the creamed mushrooms (that is, mushrooms sauteed with shallots in cream) is astoundingly tasty, and not unrelated to a number of other mushroom, wine and cream potions. I have a strange compulsion to make ice cubes out of anything that is concentrated and tasty, e.g. home made chicken stock, pesto, leftover pizza (you do have to put it in the blender first) and concentrated creamed mushrooms falls in that category.

Poking at the recipe:
  • Don't be lazy about the shallots - they bring a lot of flavor to the party.
  • If making a sauce, you might be able to get away with less cream - judge by consistency. I am definitely of a mind-set that while "mouth feel" can be luxurious and delicious, it's useful to know what recipes are using extra fat for feel and not for flavor. This is one of them.
  • You can probably deglaze in white wine, also a mix of white wine and vinegar (preferably a white wine vinegar - if you only have distilled, be careful) would be good.
  • Extra credit if you use tarragon with the shallots - it plays well with mushrooms.
If you have left-over tarragon and shallots, you can reduce a saute of tarragon and shallots in vinegar and white wine, then combine it with (a relatively unflavored/unspiced ) hollandaise sauce and you end up with BĂ©arnaise sauce, which is absurdly good and can be dumped on, well, pretty much anything. (Allegedly you need chervil to make a BĂ©arnaise correctly, but I have used up leftover tarragon and shallots and it's still very good.)

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