Sticking to a new way of eating? Try this updated Thanksgiving classic

  • What you'll need to make this update on a Thanksgiving classic: the green bean casserole.

    What you'll need to make this update on a Thanksgiving classic: the green bean casserole. Courtesy of Don Mauer

Posted11/11/2020 6:00 AM

What's headed to your Thanksgiving dinner table this year?

Here's what's usually headed to mine: roasted turkey (typically wet or dry brined), casserole dish stuffing (stuffing the bird's too risky; when the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, the turkey is overdone), smashed potatoes with scratch-made gravy (my retired chef brother taught me to add a tablespoon of ketchup; kicking-up the flavor) and organic homemade cranberry sauce.


You may be asking: "What, no green bean casserole; you know the one topped with fried onions? It's a classic."

Decades ago, my mother switched-up that casserole turning it into a molten mixture of green beans, processed Swiss cheese (it melted much better than "real" Swiss cheese), sour cream, sautéed onion; topped with sliced almonds. For the Mauer's, that was a classic.

These days, I'm shying-away from highly processed foods, and Swiss Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product only tastes like Swiss cheese. Since the maker adds sodium citrate, its product melts beautifully, where Swiss cheese tends to end up clumping when melted.

This year, to stick to my new foodways, I strived to create a new-for-me green bean casserole using ingredients processed as little as possible.

Of course, I needed green beans. The original "classic" green bean casserole used canned green beans. I wanted to use fresh green beans, and when I made my first new casserole found it took too much time to wash, trim, cut, parboil, and chill those beans. Switching to fresh-frozen cut green beans brought to room temperature accomplished nearly the same results with a much lower hassle-factor.

Of course, my new casserole needed cheese, but a cheese with both big flavor and smooth melting. Gruyere works perfectly for that. And most Gruyere is Swiss made. Perfect.

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The "classic" casserole sauce begins with canned cream of mushroom soup. I decided to go with fresh mushrooms and found some beautiful shitake mushrooms at the store, knowing they'd add meaty texture and big mushroom flavor.

Bacon doesn't hurt anything to which it's added, and I thought it would boost my casserole's flavor. The small amount of fat from the cooked bacon would be perfect for sautéing the shallots and shitakes.

Sour cream and heavy whipping cream deliver few carbohydrates and big flavor, ideal for the sauce that would come together in the oven, not on the stovetop.

Since my garden still has fresh thyme, I snipped some to add a flavor boost and went with white pepper versus black to add a subtle flavor difference. Topping my casserole with almonds added more flavor without adding many carbohydrates (only 1.7 carb grams per tablespoon).


My new, very different green bean casserole smelled great while it baked (thanks bacon, shallots, and almonds). I couldn't wait to taste it. It was worth it, though, since it turned out to be amazing.

This dish will become the new Mauer family holiday favorite and may become yours, too.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@

New Green Bean Casserole.
New Green Bean Casserole. - Courtesy of Don Mauer
New Green Bean Casserole

3 (12-ounce) bags frozen cut green beans (organic preferred)

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces no-sugar-added bacon, sliced into ½-inch pieces

2 large shallots, finely chopped (about ½ cup)

8 ounces fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin

1 cup sour cream (organic preferred)

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream (organic preferred)

6 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried, crumbled)

1½ teaspoons sea salt

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

½ cup sliced almonds

Give the green beans about 90 minutes to defrost and come to room temperature.

Once green beans are defrosted, place the oven rack in the center position and begin heating the oven to 375 degrees. Spread olive oil around the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish or pan. Set aside.

Heat a 12-inch, heavy skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the bacon. Cook until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove to paper towels.

Leave the bacon fat in the skillet and return it to the heat and add the shallots; sautéing until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Sauté, stirring until mushrooms begin to throw-off moisture. Add salt and cook until tender, about 5 minutes more. Add ¼-cup water to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits still clinging to the pan's bottom. Remove from heat.

While the mushrooms cook: in a large bowl whisk sour cream and cream together until combined. Stir in Gruyère cheese. Add green beans, bacon, mushroom mixture, thyme, and pepper; stirring everything together until beans are well coated. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Evenly distribute sliced almonds over the top.

Bake 30 minutes, or until the casserole bubbles around the edges. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.

Serves 10 as a side dish.

Nutrition values per serving: 266 calories(69 percent from fat), 20.4 g fat(9.9 g saturated fat), 10.6 g carbohydrates (6.9 net carbs), 3.7 g sugars, 3.2 g fiber, 10.8 g protein, 53 mg cholesterol, 515 mg sodium.

SaltSense: Omitting the added sea salt reduces the sodium per serving to 166 milligrams.

Suggestion: Don't eat pork? Substitute either beef or turkey bacon.

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