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A Classic Side Dish From a Master – Alton Brown’s Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

You wouldn’t think there would be too much that you can actually do to change up this holiday classic, so when I noticed Alton Brown’s recipe for green bean casserole I had to check out what makes it so different from the classic you see on holiday tables each year. The biggest difference really is that everything is made from scratch. No canned fried onions, no cream of mushroom soup, no canned french green beans. I have nothing against the traditional way many people make this dish, but for me personally if you can use all fresh ingredients without preservatives and such that go into canned products, you are much better off and the taste will be a lot better. I made this dish for our Christmas meal and it was well worth the extra effort to put into it.

Alton Brown’s Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

For the topping:

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Nonstick cooking spray

For the beans and sauce:

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved

2 tablespoons butter

12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the onions, flour, panko bread crumbs, and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until they are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 or 3 times during the cooking process to ensure they brown evenly. Once they are done, remove the onions from the oven and set them aside so that they are ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the green beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the green beans and blanch the beans for 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the beans and set them aside.

Melt the butter in a large cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to release some of their liquid, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook the mixture for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the casserole is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and serve.

I have tried different recipes for this casserole before, but I think this one had the freshest taste of any I have made. I have never been a big fan of the canned condensed soups, so I was glad for the fresh mushrooms and half-and-half. I think this recipe had much better flavor than any others i have tried and it was definitely worth a little extra effort. Making your onions was quick and easy and they tasted great. The onions would be ideal just for burgers, let alone this casserole. I will definitely make this again, and not just for holiday meals.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Cooking, Holidays, Side Dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

 

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Some Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Okay, so Sunday we did the turkey and stuffing, yesterday we did the soup, today we’ll do some side dishes. I wanted to choose some classic sides but maybe try something a little different with them, and I ended up choosing both of these recipes from Cook’s Country. The first takes the traditional sweet potato casserole and makes it a little differently. I am not a fan of marshmallow and didn’t want to make something that was going to use them and this recipe seems just perfect and it is not hard to make.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Bacon-Brown Sugar Topping

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

5 slices bacon

4 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 pieces

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest plus 2 tablespoons juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay two 24 by 12-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil perpendicular to each other inside a rimmed baking sheet. Place the sweet potatoes in the center of the foil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Fold opposite sides of the foil toward each other and crimp edges to seal tightly. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 60 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and heat the broiler.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. When the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble it into bite-size pieces. Pulse the bacon and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor until coarsely ground, about 10 pulses; set aside.

Carefully open 1 end of the foil pouch, taking care to avoid escaping steam, and pout the potatoes and accumulated liquid into the food processor. Add the butter, cream, orange zest and juice, salt cinnamon, pepper and cayenne and process until smooth, 30 to 60 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Transfer the potato puree to a 2-quart souffle dish and sprinkle evenly with the reserved bacon-sugar mixture. Broil the sweet potatoes until the topping is lightly browned and bubbling, about 2 to 4 minutes.

You can make part of this ahead of time to save you time on Thanksgiving. The processed potatoes can be refrigerated without the topping for up to 2 days. To serve it, cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake on the middle rack of a 400 degree oven until hot throughout, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil, add the bacon-sugar topping and broil as directed.

I think it is going to turn out quite nicely and I’ll be sure to take some pictures of it so you can see it on Thursday.

My second recipe frees up some stove or oven space for you by making good use of your slow cooker. it is a version of the classic green bean casserole, but made using the slow cooker to make things a little easier for you along the way.

Slow-Cooker Green Bean Casserole

1 cup canned fried onions

3 tablespoons butter

10 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Salt and pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups chicken broth

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 slices white bread, torn into pieces

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups canned fried onions

To make the sauce, pulse the canned onions in a food processor until finely ground; set aside. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and ground onions and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the broth and the cream and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.

Combine the sauce and the green beans in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until the beans are tender, 5 to 6 hours.

Meanwhile, pulse the bread and butter in a food processor until coarsely ground. Toast the bread crumbs and onions in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Top the green beans with bread-crumb mixture and serve.

You can also start making this ahead of time as well to save you some effort on Thanksgiving. The sauce and the topping can be made and refrigerated in separate airtight containers for 2 days. To finish it, microwave the sauce, covered, for 1 minute before proceeding with slow cooking. Crisp the bread-crumb mixture in a skillet before topping and serving.

I like the idea of using the slow cooker, but I also like the not using canned green beans or cream of mushroom soup to make it. Personally, I am not a big fan of canned vegetables and soups. If you like them better, stick with what you like, but I think giving the freshness is worth the little bit of extra time it takes to prep everything.

Okay, so we almost have a complete meal for Thursday. Tomorrow, I am going to talk a little bit about some appetizers and a dessert to round out the meal if you want to check back and see. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

 

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Here Chicken, Chicken, Chicken Fried Steak!

I haven’t had chicken fried steak in a long time, and I have never tried to make it myself, so this will be a good experiment. I looked at a bunch of different recipes and this one from America’s Test Kitchen seemed to be the easiest and best one to try, so here we go.

Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy

Steak

3 cups all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 cube steaks (5 ounces each) pounded 1/4 inch thick

4 to 5 cups vegetable oil

Cream Gravy

1 onion, minced

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

For the steak: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Toss the flour, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and the cayenne together in a shallow dish. In a second dish, beat the buttermilk, egg, baking powder and baking soda together (it will get foamy).

Pat the steaks dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Dredge the steaks through the flour, then coat with the buttermilk mixture, then coat again with the flour. Lay the battered steaks on a wire rack.

Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven until it measures one inch. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Fry 3 of the steaks until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Return the oil to 375 degrees and repeat with the remaining steaks. Transfer the steaks to a clean wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.

For the gravy: Carefully strain the oil through a fine mesh strainer into a medium pot. Return any browned bits from the strainer along with 2 tablespoons of the frying oil to the Dutch oven. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and thyme and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Whisk in the milk, salt, pepper and cayenne and simmer until the gravy has thickened, about 5 minutes. Spoon the gravy over the steaks before serving.

Try to maintain a consistent oil temperature while cooking. Give the oil a chance to get back up to temperature before starting the second batch of steaks so they don’t become greasy and they cook all the way through. I making mashed potatoes with this, that seems like the side dish we should have to go with the steak and the gravy. You can find my recipe for mashed potatoes here. I’ll also just be steaming some green beans as our side dish.

I had planned to cook this last night, but I just started a new pain medication for my feet and it really knocked me for a loop, so everything got pushed back a bit. I’ll add some pictures so you can see how the steak turned out. Tomorrow, Sean would like breakfast for dinner, so we’ll be making pancakes, but I am going to post a recipe that I use for some homemade turkey sausage patties that turn out quite delicious. Check back tomorrow for that one. Until then, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal!

 

 

Last minute substitution with the peas for the green beans, but other than that, I think they turned out really well. The steak was nice and crispy and the gravy came out good as well.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Gravy, Potatoes

 

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Back to the Kitchen For Some Fried Chicken

Hectic schedules, homework, late work days, you name it and it has a way of interfering with life in general, including cooking dinner. We ended up having leftovers the last 2 nights because of crazy schedules, doctor’s appointments and everyday life, but today I am going to get back in the kitchen and I am going to make some fried chicken.

I don’t make fried chicken too often, and when I do I usually oven fry it to cut down on the mess and all the oil needed, but tonight I think I am going to really fry it. I could use the deep fryer, but I am going to do it on the stove this time, and I am going to try a different recipe tonight, one I got from America’s Test Kitchen.

Fried Chicken

1 quart buttermilk

3 tablespoons salt

4 pounds bone in chicken pieces (halved split breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks)

5 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

5 to 6 cups vegetable oil

Whisk 3 1/4 cups of the buttermilk and the salt together in a large bowl until the salt dissolves. Add the chicken and coat thoroughly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (Don’t let the chicken soak much longer or it will become too salty).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, thyme, pepper, and garlic powder together in a large bowl. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk and rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse wet sand. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk soak and then coat thoroughly with the flour mixture and lay it on a wire rack set over a baking sheet while the oil heats.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Pour 1 inch of the oil into a large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Add half of the chicken, skin-side down. Cover and cook until deep golden brown on the first side, about 10 minutes (After the first 4 minutes, re-arrange the pieces if some are browning faster than others).

Turn the chicken pieces over. Continue to fry, uncovered and maintaining an oil temperature of 315 degrees, until the chicken pieces are a deep golden on the second side, about 7 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for 5 minutes, then lay on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Add additional oil to the pot as needed to maintain a depth of 1 inch and return it to 375 degrees before frying the remaining chicken.

With the fried chicken, I am going to serve mashed potatoes and gravy. I have made mashed potatoes many times in the meal plan, and if you would like to see the method I use for the potatoes, you can check an earlier blog posting here. You definitely need to have some gravy with this one as well. I have posted a quick chicken gravy recipe before, but since I don’t have any pan drippings to use, I am going to use the all purpose gravy recipe that I have used in the past.

All Purpose Gravy

3 tablespoons butter

1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine

1 rib celery, chopped fine

1 onion, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth 

2 cups beef broth

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

5 whole black peppercorns

Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook until softened and well browned, about 9 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly browned, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the broths and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20-25 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface.

Pour the gravy through a fine-mesh strainer (or gravy separator) into a clean saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

I’ll be serving all this with some simple steamed green beans. It’s just a pound of green beans (stem ends trimmed) in a steaming rack in a large pot of boiling water just touching the rack. I cover and steam the green beans for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the beans are crisp-tender.

If there are any leftovers, there’s nothing like some cold fried chicken with some potato salad for a nice lunch or dinner the next day. Tomorrow is Friday, which means we’ll be having fish. I picked up some tilapia this morning so we’ll be having a nice simple baked tilapia with some brown rice and asparagus tomorrow.   Check out the blog tomorrow so you can see how it goes. Until then, enjoy your day and enjoy your meal!


 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Gravy, Potatoes, Poultry, Vegetables

 

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Fantastic Friday Fish & Chips

It’s Friday, the weekend is upon us, and so is February for that matter. Spring is not too far off now, even if the weather here has made it seem like spring already. Today’s dinner was picked by Sean, which surprised me and made me glad. Since we started the meal plan, he has been very open to trying new things and picking out some things we have never made before, including today’s dinner. I have had fish and chips and various places, and have been disappointed many times by it. A lot of the time there is too much breading or the fish tastes too much like the oil it was cooked in and the fries are underwhelming. This recipe, from America’s Test Kitchen’s website, seems like it will be a good balance. It doesn’t have a lot of ingredients to it and seems easy to make. I’ll be using the deep fryer again for this one, but a large Dutch oven and a candy thermometer will serve you just as well.

Fish and Chips

3 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 large potatoes) peeled, ends and sides squared off, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch fries

3 quarts canola oil, plus 1/4 additional cup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Table salt

1 teaspoon baking powder 1 1/2 pounds 1-inch thick cod fillet (or other thick white fish, like haddock) cut into 8 pieces

1 1/2 cups beer (12 ounces), cold (you can use any beer here, with the exception of dark stouts and ales)

Place cut fries in a large microwaveable bowl, toss with 1/4 cup oil and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until the potatoes are partially translucent and pliable but still offer some resistance when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 6 to 8 minutes, tossing them with a rubber spatula halfway through the cooking time. Carefully pull back the plastic wrap from the side farthest from you and drain the potatoes into a large mesh strainer over the sink. Rinse well under cold running water. Spread the potatoes on kitchen towels and pat dry. Let rest until room temperature, at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour.

While the fries cool, whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large mixing bowl; transfer 3.4 cup of mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Add baking powder to the bowl and whisk to combine.

In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat 2 quarts of oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Add the fries to the hot oil and increase the heat to high. Fry, stirring with a mesh spider or slotted metal spoon, until the potatoes turn light golden and just begin to brown at the corners, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fries to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain.

Reduce heat to medium-high, add the remaining quart of oil, and heat the oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, thoroughly dry the fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in the flour mixture on the baking sheet; transfer the pieces to a wire rack, shaking off the excess flour. Add 1 1/4 cups of the beer to the flour mixture in the mixing bowl and stir until the mixture is just combined (the batter will be lumpy). Add the remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until the batter falls from the whisk in a thin, steady stream and leaves a faint trail across the surface of the batter. Using tongs, dip 1 piece of fish in the batter and let the excess run off, shaking gently. Place the battered fish back onto the baking sheet with the flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Repeat with the remaining fish, keeping the pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet.

When the oil reaches 375 degrees, increase the heat to high and add the battered fish to the oil with tongs, gently shaking off any excess flour. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fish to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain. Allow the oil to return to 375 degrees.

Add all the fries back to the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the fries to a fresh paper bag or paper towels to drain. Season the fries with salt to taste and serve immediately with the fish. Serve with your favorite malt vinegar and tartar sauce.

Granted, this is not the healthiest meal we have made, or the healthiest way to cook fish either, but once in a while as a treat it will be pretty good. There’s not much to cooking this one either once all the prep work is done. I think it will be a very tasty dish, just be careful deep-frying; you’ll want to use the largest Dutch oven you have for safety. Sean couldn’t really pick out a vegetable to go with this meal, but green beans were on sale at the store this morning, so that’s what were going with for tonight. I found a good recipe that braises them.

Skillet-Braised Green Beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed

3/4 cup chicken broth (I am using homemade, but low sodium store-bought is good)

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/8 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and broth. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer,stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender but still offer some resistance to the bite, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.

A simple, easy and a little different way to cook up your green beans, and you’re all set with your meal for the night. I think it will go over very well.

We laid out the meal plan for next week last night, so here it is. If you want to use the same meal planner we are using, here is a link to the print out to use:family_meal_planner. I decided to let Sean pick the whole menu for next week. He had taken a couple of cookbooks out of the school library and picked some recipes that he wanted me to try. Since he picked them out, he’ll be participating in the cooking all week as well. He read through a Chinese food cookbook and an Italian food cookbook, so this is what we came up with:

Monday: Chicken Stir Fry with White Rice

Tuesday: Rustic Vegetable and Polenta Soup (this is our meat free meal of the week)

Wednesday: Pork with Peppers and Pineapple and Fried Rice

Thursday: Shrimp with Hoisin Sauce and Rice

Friday and Saturday next week we will be in Saranac Lake to celebrate Winter Carnival, so they’ll be no meals to cook on those days. However, we are bringing up a Chicken Corn Chowder with us, so I will post that recipe next week. I think Sean made some interesting choices and it will be fun to cook with him. Tomorrow’s meal is a simple Roast Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Roasted Winter Vegetables so we can bake all in one pan and cut down on dishes for the day. Tune in tomorrow to check it out and I’ll let you know how the fish and chips went. As always, feel free to add a comment, recipe, question or just say hello! Have a great day and enjoy your Friday night.

 

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Potatoes, Seafood, Vegetables

 

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Jennifer Probst

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