Donald Link’s Traditional Green Bean Casserole

This is from Donald Link’s Real Cajun, a recent addition to our cookbook collection that we are obsessing over.  This is a two part recipe, but it can be assembled the day before sans fried onions.  It is so good that even with a holiday table full of food there will not be one bite left.  Of course the green beans are delicious all on their own if you like to keep things simple.

Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

Serves 6 to 8

4 strips thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved, or 2 pounds fresh shell beans, shelled

4 cups chicken broth or water, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

Ground black pepper

Hot pepper vinegar, as desired

Heat the bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat until lightly browned but still tender.  Add the onion and saute until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute a few more minutes.

Add the green beans and enough broth or water to just cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 25 to 35 minutes (35 to 45 minutes for shell beans), until the beans are very tender and have melted into the cooking liquid.  Season the beans generously with salt, pepper, and hot pepper vinegar.

Traditional Green Bean Casserole

Serves 8 to 10

1 recipe Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons (1 1/2 stick) butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

Pinch of grated nutmeg

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups grated white or yellow cheddar cheese

FRIED ONIONS

3 cups vegetable oil

1 large onion, very thinly sliced

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Strain the cooking liquid from the beans and reserve (you should have about 2 1/2 cups).  Transfer the green bean mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  While the oil is heating, season the onion slices with 1 teaspoon of the salt and pepper.  Place the flour in a pie plate.  When the oil is very hot (about 350 F), toss one-fourth of the onions with the flour.  Add them to the hot oil (shaking off the excess flour as you go).  Fry until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining onions until all are fried.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the chopped onion, remaining salt, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until very soft, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir until melted.  Add the flour and stir until incorporated.  Stir in the cream and reserved bean cooking liquid and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough to fall slowly from a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in the cheese, then add the green beans and toss until combined.  Transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and bake until the casserole is hot and bubbly around the edges, about 25 minutes.  Top with the fried onions and bake an additional 20 minutes, until the onions become more deeply golden.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving.

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