Cooking Through Alton: Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
We're trying recipes by Food Network icon Alton Brown that might work for Thanksgiving. If they're good, you'll have a complete guide for the big meal. If they're clunkers, we'll provide you with alternate recipes that are tried and true.
The dish: Using "Best Ever" in a recipe title annoys me. Was it the best ever? We'll get to that in a bit. Alton's meticulous food preparation techniques leave absolutely no stone unturned. For example, I've never given much thought to making my own crispy onion topping. The canned version always worked for me. Not so much for Alton.
The difficulty: This recipe is certainly not for a beginner, but that said, you don't have to be an Alton offspring to cook it. Set all of your ingredients on the counter, chop everything beforehand, and try your best to avoid distractions. The steps are easy but do come at you in a hurry. Full disclosure: My onions got burned in the oven. I gave too much focus to the skillet and forgot this one little detail: "Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking." Also, panko bread crumbs burn in an instant. Fortunately, I was able to rescue a portion of mine. A quick taste of the onion topping proved Alton's perfectionist ways correct.
The presentation: These green beans make for a nice presentation. Due to the botched onions, my version is lacking the crunchy topping. The mushrooms and cream sauce add to the hearty look of the dish.
The tips: Slice the onions as thin as you can without cutting your finger off. A mandoline would work well if you have one. I would cut the amount of pepper this recipe calls for in half. Finally, do not bypass throwing the green beans in an ice bath post boiling. This step keeps the beans pliant and vibrant.
The slim down: You could always replace the half and half with whole milk, but that would hurt the overall quality of your sauce. I recommend finding another recipe if you're truly concerned about the amount of fat.
The verdict: Alton's take on green bean casserole was good, but not great. It was too rich, too peppery, and too time-consuming. You're better off sticking with the canned cream of mushroom and French's onions, or go with a slightly less complicated recipe from scratch. Please make the following consideration if making Alton's version for Thanksgiving--do yourself a favor and make it the day before. There will be plenty other recipes tugging at your mental fortitude. I respect Alton, but this one just didn't do it for me, and probably has seen the last of my kitchen. With all the other heavy items on the Thanksgiving table, I generally enjoy a basic boiled or steamed version of green beans. If you desire something in-between heavy and light, check this recipe out.