Three or four years before a team of home economists at the Campbell Soup Company published the recipe for green bean casserole, one of Jerri’s cousins served it on Thanksgiving in Moundridge, Kansas. Jerri is sure of the chronology for two reasons: She was not yet in high school, and she loved that casserole.
Jerri’s comment when I asked for her green bean casserole recipe probably explains how a Kansas cook beat a team of professionals. “Everybody knows how to make green bean casserole. There’s nothing special about it.”
Since Campbell Cream of Mushroom Soup had been around since 1934 and home canning of vegetables for at least fifty years before that, chances are good that inventive housewives from Kansas to Wisconsin had discovered that cream of mushroom soup turned ordinary green beans into something special shortly after they brought the first cans of the soup home from the store. I know that my mother made green bean casseroles when I was a kid, but I can’t say when they first appeared on the Rang table.
Today, you will find literally hundreds of recipes for green bean casserole on the Web. There are many variations ranging from very simple (Stir the soup and beans together and heat.) to rather complicated instructions describing how to produce an aristocratic version of a plebeian dish. (Sauté the mushrooms….toss the shallot rings….etc.)
Some call for panko crumbs and others top the casserole with Ritz crackers. Still others include extra ingredients such as garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese or bacon. And some even replace the cream of mushroom soup with a white sauce and exotic mushrooms. But in spite of the substitutions or added ingredients, they are all varieties of the two kinds of green bean casserole.
One kind is made with cut beans, the other with French cut beans. Cut beans are whole beans cut crosswise into pieces. French cut beans are cut into long strips. When my mother canned beans, they were cut beans, but when she made a green bean casserole she bought French cut beans for it. So does Jerri.
I have eaten both varieties, and in my opinion green bean casseroles made with French cut beans are far superior to those made with cut beans. You may prefer the cut bean variety, which is just fine. As a wise man wrote long ago, “De gustibus non disputandum est” which is Latin for “Don’t argue about matters of taste.”
Familiarity may breed contempt in some cases, but when it comes to green bean casserole, familiarity for me nurtures a love for that mixture of finely cut beans and creamy soup with plenty of mushrooms. Like my mother, Jerri adds mushrooms to her green bean casserole My father did not approve, but he was outvoted by the rest of us, and it was Mom who ruled the kitchen.
Here is Jerri’s (and my Mom’s) recipe, simple but delicious. If you already love the one you make, don’t try this one. However, you may be one of the few people who has never made a green bean casserole. Or perhaps you make it only because family members expect one at Thanksgiving or Christmas. If either sentence describes your situation, give this recipe a try.
3 cans French cut green beans
2 cans Campbell Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 four oz. can mushroom stems and pieces
1 cup French fried onions, divided
Preheat the oven to about 325º.
Drain the beans and mushrooms well and put them in a mixing bowl. Stir in the mushroom soup. Then fold in a half cup of French fried onions. Microwave until the mixture is hot. Sprinkle the remaining French fried onions on top and bake ten minutes in the oven before serving.
NOTES: Jerri microwaves the casserole because we don’t have room for it in the oven along with the turkey. If you have a larger oven or two ovens, you can just pop the casserole into the oven and remember to sprinkle the French fried onions on top during the last ten minutes while it is heating.