Here's a twist on Thanksgiving's classic green bean casserole

  • The green bean casserole bakes in the oven until it's all bubbly on the edges and the almonds are slightly browned.

    The green bean casserole bakes in the oven until it's all bubbly on the edges and the almonds are slightly browned. Courtesy of Don Mauer

  • Here are all the ingredients you'll need to make Don Mauer's Mom's Green Bean Casserole.

    Here are all the ingredients you'll need to make Don Mauer's Mom's Green Bean Casserole. Courtesy of Don Mauer

 
 
Posted11/9/2022 6:00 AM

In my preteen years, we had two Thanksgiving dinners, one at each grandparent's house since both lived in the same town. No wonder my weight issues began at 11 years old and continued throughout my life.

In the 1950s, at one of those dinners, grandmother Mauer made a turkey stuffing that included fresh oysters. That was the first and last time.

 

My maternal grandfather, Bompa, mirrored a famous Norman Rockwell painting, carving the whole turkey, serving-by-serving, at the table. Bompa also made turkey sandwiches available (actually pushed them) a couple of hours after dinner. Surprisingly, a few family members accepted.

When Thanksgiving Day dinners started at mom's house, one special part was her green bean casserole.

Her casserole wasn't what, for some, was the classic: canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, topped with fried onions. No.

Mom's unique and, at that time, unusual take on green bean casserole had sour cream, processed Swiss cheese and almonds, and cornflakes on top. No canned soup or fried onions.

Over the years, mom's casserole became a Mauer family tradition, so much so that five years ago, I showcased it as part of a November cooking class.

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Since the original recipe required "processed" Swiss cheese, and the cooking school couldn't source it locally, they switched to "real" Swiss cheese. When I arrived before the class, they explained the sourcing issue and assumed it would be fine. It was not.

Processed cheese, such as processed American cheese food slices, are made with sodium citrate, an ingredient not found in real cheese.

Sodium citrate helps processed cheese to melt smoothly and easily incorporate into a sauce. Velveeta brand pasteurized processed cheese product is an excellent example of processed cheese: an integral ingredient in many folks' macaroni and cheese.

Real Swiss cheese melts but ends up stringy, not smooth, which is what happened to the green bean casserole cheese at the cooking school. My cooking school casserole tasted good but looked gloppy. So much for the real thing.

Today, my green bean casserole is almost exactly like my mom's. I use canned, French-style green beans, real sour cream, butter and flour to make the sauce and Swiss pasteurized prepared cheese product.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The only difference from my mom's casserole was double the almonds on top and omitting the cornflake topping.

When I follow my mom's recipe precisely, it brings back warm memories of past Thanksgiving dinners -- the good kind, without oyster stuffing.

Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at 1leanwizard@gmail.com.

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