There is always this moment after you become a vegetarian when you are speaking to a dear friend, and it comes up that meat-derived broths are in fact not vegetarian friendly. For a minute, they get this quizzical look on their face. You can see it in their eyes-the confusion as they go through every delicious soup and casserole they can think of, realizing that none of them are vegetarian. Sometimes this minute ends with a guilty face, “oh my gosh, I am so sorry… but you know that french onion soup I served you the other night….”
The only thing sneakier than meat broths, is gelatin! For vegetarians, finding a pre-made soup at any restaurant is typically a nightmare, as they all contain some animal derived broth. Often, we end up making these things ourselves to avoid miscommunication. For many casseroles, especially in the South, the problem is exactly the same.
People adore chicken stock! It’s like they think it has some sort of magical component that makes everything delicious, but veggie stock is awesome too! More people should use this healthier alternative, and that’s what I’ve done in this recipe for green bean casserole. Furthermore, we often use gravy in green bean casseroles (and many other things) to make them fatty and delicious.
I get it. Sauce is great. Sauces are great on everything. However, very few store-bought gravies are vegetarian friendly. I want to warn any vegetarians who have not checked this out. Go to the supermarket, look closely at the ingredients. Even mushroom gravy often contains beef fat. For this recipe, make sure you buy vegetarian mushroom gravy or make your own.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why Campbell’s feels the need to add beef fat so sneakily to their mushroom gravies. Mushrooms are delicious, they don’t require the adipose tissue of giant cows to be yummy.
Okay. I’m done with the soapbox. Other than issues finding good vegetarian ingredients, this recipe is fairly easy and delicious! I fried up fresh onions in safflower oil, but you can always just buy french fried onions from the store if that’s more effort than you’re willing to put in!
Finally, this recipe makes a small portion (about 4 servings). You can double it if you need more!
Onion Topped Green Bean Casserole
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
for the onions
1 bag cippolini onions
1/4 cup AP flour
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
safflower oil, for frying
for the filling
1 pound fresh green beans
1 ½ tablespoons salted butter
6 ounces crimini mushrooms
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 garlic clove
1 ½ tablespoons AP flour
1 cup vegetable broth
¼ cup mushroom gravy (make sure it’s vegetarian!)
¼ cup heavy cream
First, make your onions. Slice the onions extremely thin (use a mandolin if you have one!), and separate out the rings. In a large bowl, mix them with the flour, panko, salt, and a few turns of black pepper.
In a large skillet, pour about ½ inch of safflower oil. Cook over medium-high heat until water spits and floats when it hits the oil. Drop the battered onions into the oil, frying in batches. You want to take them out and drain them on a paper towel after they have become a light, golden brown. They will brown the rest of the way in the oven! Once you are done with all of the onions, set them aside to drain on the paper towels (flipping once if you wish to get off as much oil as possible). At this point, I did notice that our stovetop was spattered generously with safflower oil, so I went ahead and cleaned this up a bit, discarding the used oil and wiping down the stove.
Next, wash the green beans. Trim them– by cutting off the tips– and then cut them in half. Place the halves into a large bowl and discard the tips. Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. While the water is heating up, you can go ahead and prepare an ice bath for the beans. Cook the green beans in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes, depending on their size. After they are cooked, plunge them into an ice bath and set them aside.
In a large clean skillet, begin melting the butter over low heat. While watching the butter carefully, wash, de-stem, and dice the crimini mushrooms.
Sautee them in the pan with the butter. Grate fresh nutmeg over the mushrooms, and add the salt and pepper. Stir them in the pan until they release their juices.
Mince the garlic and add that into the pan. Cook the garlic with the mushrooms for a few minutes more, until they become fragrant.
Add in the flour and stir constantly until it has coated every mushroom and has become thick. Next, add in the broth and gravy, continually stirring, and increase the heat to medium-high.
Add the heavy cream in, and stir, bringing the entire mixture to a simmer. Let it simmer for 6 minutes or so, stirring until it becomes thick.
Finally, add the cooked beans to the skillet and stir everything together until the green beans are nicely coated in the mushroom sauce.
Assemble the dish: put the green bean mixture into a medium-sized dish and sprinkle the onions over the top.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.