Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving: Part 2 - The Casseroles

Get yourself a cup of tea, we need to have a chat. Got it? Okay.

I don't know about you, but despite the fact that I ate precious little casserole growing up (thanks Mom), the word still brings to mind images of gloppy, grayish-brown conglomerations incorporating entirely too much canned condensed soup and insipid, canned vegetables. Say it ain't so! 

Okay, it ain't so. Or at least it does not have to be. Unfortunately, it seems a great many Americans still make certain popular casseroles (which will remained unnamed...) for the holidays in which every ingredient is derived from a can and/or bag. Yuck. Yes, making your own from fresh ingredients will take a little more time, but you will be rewarded with infinitely better flavor and nutrition. Both of these casseroles can be made in advance and then finished in the oven just before serving, meaning less stress on the day of. They are also both yummy leftover (I eat them straight out of the 'fridge). Both these recipes use the nut cream I posted yesterday so make that first. It is time for casserole overhaul!

Casserole Make-over 1
This sweet potato casserole seemed to be the favorite of most everyone in attendance on Thanksgiving. My dad even said it was the best sweet potato casserole he'd ever had (or something like that - thanks Daddy). 

Most sweet potato casseroles are tooth-achingly sweet, better suited to the dessert table than its rightful place on the dinner plate. This one is sweet without being cloying with a nice crunchy topping as a pleasant contrast to the smooth 'taters below.

Pralined Sweet Potato Casserole
How many this serves depends entirely on how many other dishes you are serving it with. It may seem like there is not enough liquid for the first step, but trust me there is. We are going to incorporate all the liquid into the final dish, to save all that yummy flavor from going down the drain, so we don't want too much or it will be runny.

For the Potatoes
7 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup water
1/4 cup earth balance
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup nut cream
up to 1/3 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 if baking immediately after assembly.

Place potatoes, water, e.b., brown sugar, and salt in a large pot. Place over medium heat and bring liquid to a bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes fall apart when pierced with a fork, 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping (below).

When potatoes are tender remove pan from heat. Pass all the potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer, or mash with a masher until smooth. Stir in any liquid left in the pot along with the nut cream. Taste and decide if you'd like it sweeter. If so add up to 1/3 cup maple syrup and salt to taste.

Spray a 8x8 or 9x9 or 9 in cake pan (something with an 8+ cup volume) with non-stick spray. Smooth sweet potato mixture evenly into dish. Sprinkle evenly with topping. If you are making it in advance stop here, cover with foil, and stash in fridge.

Bake 30-45 minutes, until hot all the way through and turning golden at the edges. If you made it in advance take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes prior to baking to take the chill off (preheat the oven now if it is not already). Bake 45 minutes - 1 hour until hot all the way through and golden at the edges.

For the Praline Topping
1 cup pecans, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup earth balance

Pulse the pecans in a blender or food processor until finely chopped (take care not to take it too far or you'll have pecan butter). Using a fork, work earth balance into brown sugar until evenly incorporated and brown sugar looks like very wet sand. Mix in pecans. Resist the urge to eat with your fingers. Use.

Casserole Make-over 2
I did not grow up eating the popular green bean casserole (from cans...), and quite honestly, it grossed me out when I was first introduced to it. It is not that I had not consumed my fair share of both condensed cream of mushroom soup or canned green beans, but the combination topped with canned fried onions just was not the slightest bit appealing. However, I understood (kind of...) why it was so popular. 

Not long after (a few years ago) I was watching Food 911 with Tyler Florance and he made a green bean casserole that looked fabulous. Over the years I've tweaked the seasonings a bit. And this year I made it totally vegan and it came out fabulous. 

This is my favorite dish at Thanksgiving. I really should make it more often. I will happily eat a 1/2 pound of green beans at once if this is in front of me. Yum.

Herbed Green Bean Mushroom Casserole
Serves a lot. Unless I'm there. Then it serves me 3-6 times.

Small loaf or 3-4 rolls crusty bread (a good baguette is perfect), torn into small bite-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (you can use more if you like it - I was feeding rosemary haters)
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mild yellow miso
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 lbs green beans (I like haricot vertes)
2 lbs mixed mushrooms, sliced (I used 1 lb, 4 oz crimini, 4 oz shitaki, and 8 oz oyster)
2 to 3 large shallots, sliced fairly thin
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup nut cream
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Rub together miso, nooch, and 2 tbsp olive oil until thoroughly combined and crumbly. Toss together bread pieces, 1 tbsp each thyme and chives, rosemary, nooch mixture, 1 tbsp olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spread on baking sheet and bake just until very lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. If making this in advance cool completely and then store in a plastic bag or container until just before baking.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Blanch the green beans until tender-crisp, 3-5 minutes. You may need to work in a couple of batches. You can shock them in ice water when they are done, but truthfully, I don't think it is essential. Place beans in a large bowl and set aside. 

Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and add mushrooms when it begins to smoke. Quickly toss mushrooms to coat in oil then leave them alone for a few minutes to develop some color. Cook, stirring every few minutes until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 more minutes. Add shallots and cook 2-4 minutes more until they soften. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add wine. Scrape bottom of the pan for fond. Add in remaining thyme and chives and nut cream. Stir to coat and cook one more minute. Remove from heat and pour over green beans. Toss to coat.

Pour into a 13x9 in baking dish. If you are making this in advance stop here, cover with foil, and refrigerate. Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking to take the chill off. 

Top with croutons. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until hot all the way through and croutons are deep golden brown. If the croutons are getting too dark cover with foil or move to lower rack until done.


J said...

I have followed your blog for awhile, but don't think I've commented before until now. Your casserole makeovers look amazing. I am taking down that sweet potato casserole now! It looks like a wonderful change up to the traditional super sweet casserole, and I for one hate marshmallows, so I am happy to see that they aren't in this.

I never really liked the green bean casserole too much myself, but your version sounds yummy. I am going to keep it in mind for Christmas!

Lily Girl said...

Jennifer, I'm so glad you commented :) I agree, sweet potatoes are definitely not improved with the addition of marshmallows!
Let me know if you make them, I'd love to know how they turn out :)

the little one said...

My brother and I were just talking today about me making a green bean dish for Christmas. This might be the one! I'll let you know if I make it.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

I never thought green bean casserole looked/tasted/sounded good... until now!

Jen Treehugger said...

I'd never heard of Green Bean Casserole until reading peoples blogs - it's definitely an American thing, but I LOVE the sound and look of it - I might just have to make this.

Bethany said...

I love casseroles. My mother always made really good ones. Some had condensed soup, but not all of them.

I agree that sweet potatoes are already sweet enough. :).

I have renewed faith in vegan green bean casserole thanks to SusanV's recipe. Yours looks amazing too, I'll have to try it for xmas dinner.

Bethany said...

I got the box of 18 different kinds of Numi tea. That way I can have something between the honeybush tea. which is sort of growing on me now...

Anonymous said...

Hey there I just stumbled on your blog. I have a question about your green bean casserole. WHAT the heck is "nut cream"?

Lily Girl said...

Hi Anon - If you scroll down to Thanksgiving Part 1 I posted the recipe for Nut Cream. It was what I chose to use in my casseroles instead of dairy cream or commercial non-dairy "cream". Here is the link to that post

Bethany said...

I made the green bean casserole. YUMMY! Thanks again for posting it.