It’s easy: just open a few cans and throw it in the oven. It’s tasty, just like lots of salty, artificially flavored, highly processed food. And for many of us, it’s the flavor of home in a simpler time.
If your family has a special place for a once-a-year green bean casserole, knock yourself out.
But this version tastes better. Fresh green beans and mushrooms in a silky cream sauce with a subtle flavor of the Mediterranean from North African spices. A mix of croutons, fried capers, and cheese make for a crispy topping that doesn’t come from a can.
For the shopping list
Country-style Bread, cut into cubes
* if you can find chanterelles, use them, but white or brown mushrooms are fine
From the kitchen
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cook the green beans in plenty of a pot of well-salted boiling water or 5 minutes, then drain and run a little cold water over them to cool them off. Pick off any stem ends and tear the beans into roughly 2 inch pieces. Set aside.
Soak the capers in cold water for about 20 minutes, drain, and pat dry with a clean dish towel.
Cook the bread cubes in olive oil until browned and crispy. Let them cool a bit, then chop into coarse crumbs.
Put capers in a heavy skillet over medium high with enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until browned and crispy, about 15 minutes.
Cook the mushrooms in a heavy skillet over medium high without any oil. Called a dry sauté, this technique reduces the moisture in the mushrooms - they’re about 90% water - and results in much better texture and flavor. Cook the mushrooms, adding a pinch of salt and stirring regularly, until there’s no moisture in the pan, then add a healthy pour of extra virgin olive oil.
Add the chopped shallots.and ras el hanout, cook for a few minutes, then add the sherry, if using. Cook for a few minutes to reduce the wine, add the cream, cook for a few minutes or until it thickens, then remove from the heat.
If your skillet’s big enough, mix in the green beans; if not, combine the beans and mushrooms in a baking dish. Stir it together and taste for salt, adding more if needed.
Mix the bread crumbs, fried capers, and cheese together and spread it over the beans and mushrooms. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.