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My mother claims to love the original green bean casserole, created by Campbell's in 1955 to help sell their cream of mushroom soup. You know, the kind where you mix a can of soup with a can of green beans, top it off with canned fried onions and bake it?
She claims to love it. Then again, when I was a kid my mom also claimed that she grew up with dinosaurs and proved that she was from outer space by showing me her Resident Alien card. Point is, the woman can't be trusted, which leaves us in the position of having to make up our own minds. Bummer, right?
Here's my opinion: we can do better. Whether we upgrade just the canned green beans to fresh, or go all out and make our own creamy mushroom sauce and fry our own onions (or shallots, as the case may be), it's a dish that's tasty enough to be worth a bit of extra effort.
The most time consuming part is making the mushroom sauce, and it ain't even that bad. Best of all, this is one of those dishes where you can make everything in advance—blanch the green beans, make your mushroom sauce, and fry the shallots—chill it all down, then put it all together right before you pop the casserole in the oven, which is good news for folks who need to make food that travels well or have other dishes to grapple with in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.