I got rid of my TV when I moved recently. The last time I had used it was months ago, and it’s not like I was trying to catch a particular show, I was just bored. Nowadays, it’s generally a task for me to follow TV. I can deal with Hulu and Netflix, or listening in on old Seinfeld episodes when my dad watches. Buuuut that’s about it. I think I was last into current television when I was trying to learn how to be a serious cook. Not surprisingly, I watched a lot of Food Network. Some stuff was useful, some not so much. Some stuff made me hungry, and Paula Deen just annoyed the hell out of me. My favorite show was Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Because he helped me finally understand chemistry (to an extent). Unlike my high school chem teacher, Alton made me feel validated. Plus, he didn’t give me a C on my report card. Or a D. Whatever that bitch gave me…
One Good Eats episode I was particularly fond of was “Bean Stalker”, in which he made the classic green bean casserole from scratch. Obviously, I like from-scratch food, not just for the better flavor and nutrition, but for the labor of love that goes into it. As a vegetable-lover, it kills me to see a green bean casserole made the Campbell’s way– with limp, flavorless green beans and condensed mushroom soup that barely has any mushrooms in it. The French fried onions are not even onions, but I consider those a guilty pleasure.
I’ve actually never made Alton’s recipe to the T. But I’ve been inspired by it, and done a couple of my own versions. Vegan, of course. I depend mostly on his method of making the crispy onion topping, as well as the mushroom sauce. As for the green beans, I like to change it up. I like green beans, but when it comes to green veggies, they don’t quite grab my attention the way collard greens, Swiss chard, or even broccoli would. So I encourage you to do as you please as well. I think it’s good to be flexible. Unlike my high school chemistry teacher…
Shrooms & Greens Casserole
1 pint mushrooms
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil
a few dashes each of salt, pepper, nutmeg, and any other additional herbs or spices you’d like to try
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour*
a bottle of white wine**
1 lb green vegetables (fresh green beans, collard or mustard greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, etc.), cooked***
1 small onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour or tapioca starch for gluten-free
1/4 cup cornflour
salt & pepper
1) Slice the mushrooms and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a pan and throw in the shrooms and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms start to give off their liquid.
2) As the shroom juice evaporates, add your spices. I added a bit of dill, which may sound like an odd combination with nutmeg, but it’s quite nice. You can try sage, thyme, basil, cumin, coriander, cloves. Surprise yourself.
3) Once the shroom juice is all gone, sprinkle on the flour, and stir the mushrooms around to get them coated.
4) Now comes the fun part. Pour in the wine.
Yeah, about that much. Enough to flood the mushrooms. This will not only deglaze the bits that are stuck to the pan, the liquid will bind with the flour and begin to thicken, creating a gravy-like sauce.
Stir it around for a few minutes and let the alcohol cook out. Taste it occasionally to track where it’s at. Adjust seasonings if needed. At the very end, I added an extra schtickle of olive oil (because here’s a secret kids: fat makes stuff taste better).
5) Time for the green part. You can either add your green veggies straight to the mushroom sauce, or layer them in your casserole dish with the sauce on top. I used spinach and mixed it up with the mushrooms. Set this aside.
6) For the crispy onion topping, slice the onion thinly. To keep yourself from crying, chill the onion well. This will at least hold back some of the sulfur so if you do cry, it will be minimal. Or get a scuba mask.
7) Combine the flour, corn flour, and a few dashes of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the onion slices and toss them around to coat. Spread on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake at 475°F for 30 minutes. Stir them around to keep them from burning.
And there you have crispy onions. Made with real onions. How nice.
8) Finally, throw the onions on top of the casserole, and bake in the oven until hot, bubbly, and delicious. 350-400°F is good, though any temperature will do, I’m sure you’ll have other stuff in there (like a turkey carcass…). You can prepare the three components the day before and just put them together and heat before dinner time. How convenient.
Mushrooms, white wine, crisp onions… Yes, ma’am!
*If you’re doing the gluten-free thing, you can try arrowroot, tapioca, or potato starch. I imagine other gluten-free flours and starches will work as well, but I think those are your best bets. I would also recommend first dissolving them in cold water before adding to the pan. Some starches will clump up if added directly to heat.
**Any white wine should do here, and I would stay clear of reds (though I may go crazy and try it one day). I used the White Zinfandel I had leftover from my cranberry sauce. If you don’t want to use booze in here, feel free to substitute vegetable broth.
***Keep in mind, not all greens cook equally. Fresh spinach can be added straight to the hot mushroom sauce, while other leafy greens, broccoli, and fresh green beans should be blanched, steamed, or sauteed. If you’re not sure, just ask me. And make sure to treat them with salt and pepper.