Monday, November 21, 2011

But I'm in the backyard burning leaves in a barrel / for the prettiest girl in all of the motor court*

Green bean casserole. © Ryan Schierling
*Unbunny - Casserole

I had no idea how important and influential Dorcas Reilly was in the gastronomic genome.

As it turns out, in 1955 she penned the most popular recipe to come out of the Campbell's® Soup Company corporate kitchen, ever. Coincientally, or not, it might be the most popular Thanksgiving recipe, ever.

Green Bean Casserole.

That's right. Dorcas' soup-label recipe for green bean casserole would become a classic dish, and Campbell's® would go on to sell more than $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each year just for making her green bean casserole.

$20 million. It boggles my bean. Really.

The traditional Campbell's® recipe calls for a can of Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup, milk, soy sauce, cooked cut greens beans and French's® French Fried Onions. So, there could be freshly-picked, right-from-Grandma's-garden, honest-to-goodness green beans in there. But more likely, a can of cooked, cut green beans is going to be used, probably because now they're on the same supermarket endcap with the soup and french-fried onions.

I don't hold a grudge against this recipe or anyone who prepares it. It is simple, convenient, quick to fix and to the majority of us who grew up with it, flavored with nostalgia. (And MSG. Sorry… sorry. It's right there on the soup can before the soy protein concentrate and right after the dried whey).

Now, I'm not saying you need to fabricate some fancy-schmancy hot dish, made with old-world-French-heirloom haricots verts, $1,000-a-pound Japanese first-harvest matsutake mushrooms, cream from albino Florida Cracker cows and hand-rescued-orphaned-baby-shallots briefly-crisped in hot truffle oil.

But consider that this could be even more delicious when constructed from ingredients that didn't come in a can. Two pounds of fresh green beans, cut and cooked until just past squeaky to the tooth. Half a pound of chopped mushrooms and minced garlic sauteed in butter, then sprinkled with flour to begin a roux. Chicken or turkey stock whisked into the glue and a matching portion of heavy cream for your "cream of mushroom." Thin-sliced onions dusted with flour and quickly fried in hot oil.

This is a green bean casserole that is a little more effort than simply opening three cans and dumping them into a dish, but that whole half-hour of preparation just might make you a believer in the fresh and the real.

If not, no worries. Nostalgia occasionally trumps all, and I get that. Come Thanksgiving time, there's an endcap at the supermarket just for you.

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