Few people are familiar with the name Dorcas Reilly. Many people, however, are familiar with her claim to fame. She is the home economist who developed the recipe for green bean casserole, that ubiquitous Thanksgiving favorite comfort food, for the Campbell Soup Company in the 1955. So popular is this favorite holiday vegetable dish that has earned Ms. Reilly a place in the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. Green bean casserole, made with green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and french fried onions, is anything but gourmet or elegant. Yet, sitting down to a table laden with rich, flavorful traditional Thanksgiving fare seems unthinkable without the inclusion of this humble, but tasty, lowly casserole. Like many people in the United States, I grew up eating this casserole twice a year: for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Since my family is from Georgia and South Carolina, I spent my holidays in the deep South. I grew up thinking that green bean casserole was a Southern dish (and let’s be honest: the dish exudes that rather endearing Southern tacky, kitsch nature). Imagine my dismay when I learned the dish originated in a Campbell Soup Company test kitchen in Camden, NJ! Why, the dish is actually of Yankee origin! No matter. It still tastes delicious, and it has its Southern bona fides by virtue of its acceptance as a traditional dish served by the Southern belles in my family.
When I got married, I began making green bean casserole for Thanksgiving (and other special occasions), too. After my Celiac diagnosis, I had to make the necessary gluten-free adjustments so that I could still include the dish in our holiday meals. These adjustments meant making my own gluten-free French fried onions, and making my own gluten-free cream of mushroom soup. I actually prefer my home-made gluten-free cream of mushroom soup to any commercial brand (even the gluten-free versions now available). Unfortunately, I have never liked my own fried onions as much as I liked the gluten-containing French’s fried onions. The texture of my home-made gluten-free fried onions is never quite the same as French’s fried onions, no matter how pleasing they taste. Every year as the holiday season approaches, I research to see whether some gluten-free version of fried onions has become available, and every year – including this year – I’ve been disappointed to find that I have to make my own, less optimal gluten-free version again. Yesterday, though, something amazing happened. I was preparing my grocery list when I checked my email and found a new email from the Find Me Gluten-Free app. The email announced a new product, Top Taste gluten-free French fried onions, and listed the stores in which one can find this product: Giant, Stop & Shop, Aldi, HEB, Sprouts, and Fresh Thyme. Of these stores, only Sprouts and HEB are in San Antonio / Austin. I checked HEB online and found that the HEB where I shop in San Antonio has stocked this product. I was excited, not only because of the product’s availability, but because the ingredients are onions, buckwheat flour, and salt. That’s all! Nothing else! A healthy gluten-free flour, and no unnecessary ingredients! The price is right, too especially for such a large container. I can’t remember the exact price, but I bought four cans (two for me, two for my Celiac daughter) and the total for the four was just under $12.
Eager to try out the Top Taste gluten-free fried onions, I decided to make green bean casserole for supper last night. The Top Taste fried onions taste JUST like the French’s fried onions I remember from my pre-gluten-free life! I’m so excited! I can think many ways to use these gluten-free fried onions, such as for topping on salad, baked potatoes, mac and cheese, and soup. They might make a delicious crumb coating for oven-fried chicken, too. So many delicious possibilities!
Few gluten-free products are as similar in flavor and texture as these Top Taste French fried onions are to the French’s original fried onions we remember from our gluten-eating days. Given that many nice gluten-free products arrive on grocery shelves only to disappear without even an online presence later on, I hope this product is here to stay. It makes one’s green bean casserole taste like . . . . home. Although I do appreciate the traditional texture and flavor these gluten-free fried onions bring out in my green bean casserole, the casserole I make now is updated from that made by my mother, grandmother, and aunts all those years ago. I fresh French green beans instead of canned or frozen green beans; I make my cream of mushroom soup from scratch, and I use parmesan or Manchego cheese instead of cheddar. Most recipes for green bean casserole don’t list cheese as an ingredient, but my family always sprinkled shredded cheddar over the beans before putting the casserole in the oven. Since the addition of cheese to any dish immediately improves its flavor, I uphold that family tradition.
I’m including my recipe for cream of mushroom soup in this post; however, several brands of gluten-free cream of mushroom soup are now available. Pacific Foods, Gluten-Free Cafe, Health Valley, and Progresso Cream of Mushroom soups are easily found in stores and online. Vivian’s Live Again offers a dry gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan cream of mushroom soup mix. Minimalist Baker has a recipe for vegan parmesan cheese (which I’ve never tested), for those people who eat vegan but who might want to add cheese to their green bean casserole. For those people who still prefer to make their own gluten-free fried onions from scratch, Alton Brown’s recipe is the one I’ve been using since my Celiac diagnosis. I just substitute a combination of brown rice flour and tapioca starch for the all purpose flour, and use Ian’s gluten-free panko crumbs.
*I warm the broth and cream before adding them to the mushroom / onion mixture; when the liquid is the same temperature as the roux, it creates a smooth creamy texture without lumps.
**A non-dairy substitute can be substituted for the cream and milk in the soup recipe so that the recipe can be made vegan.
- 1 lb haricots verts, blanched
- ¼ cup butter
- 8 oz portobello mushrooms, stems and caps, finely chopped
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
- 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 1 cup grated parmesan or Machego cheese
- 1½ cups Top Taste gluten-free French fried onions
- Rinse the haricots verts; In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Place the haricots in the boiling water for two minutes. Immediately remove the haricots from the heat and drain. Immediately after draining them, immerse the beans in a bowl of ice water until they have completely cooled down. Drain the beans immediately and place them in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In a food processor, place the washed and cleaned mushrooms (caps and stems), and the ¼ cup red onion. Pulse until the mushroom and onion are in small pieces. Melt the ¼ cup butter in a shallow pan over medium heat. Add the mushroom and onion, stirring until tender. Add the 2 tablespoons each of brown rice flour and tapioca flour to the mushroom mixture. Stir over medium heat until the mixture begins to bind together. Add the ½ cup vegetable broth to the ½ cup heavy cream, and heat until hot but not boiling. Add the hot broth / cream all at once to the thickened mushroom mixture and stir over medium heat until thickened.
- Pour the mushroom soup mixture over the haricots in the large bowl. Add the ⅓ cup milk and stir the mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the bean mixture. Sprinkle the gluten-free fried onions evenly over the cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the casserole is warmed through, the cheese is melted, and the fried onions are golden.