A better green bean dish involves this Sichuan technique
Thanksgiving in 2020 is going to look a lot different this year in more ways than one. So instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done, here are recipes that throw tradition out the window — at least just this once — and play around with the expected holiday tropes. You’ll see that the classic dishes can be much easier — and more fun — when you focus on highlighting the qualities in each that really matter.
After almost a year of being at home and the same old, same old, reinvigorate your Thanksgiving table with a fresh outlook on the traditional holiday staples.
If there’s one dish on the Thanksgiving table that deserves a big refresh, it’s green bean casserole. While I can appreciate its nostalgia — and the brilliant fried onion topping — we’ve progressed beyond covering canned green beans in a thick mushroom-mottled gravy. Green beans and mushrooms don’t need that heavy cloak, and with so many other dishes carrying the indulgent-food banner better, let’s lighten this thing up, shall we?
One of my favorite ways to eat plain green beans is to blast them over high heat in a pan with just a little oil until they’re lightly charred but still crisp-tender. This method is called “dry-frying” and is a Sichuan technique that works best for highlighting a singular vegetable.
Taking inspiration from that technique, I singe green beans and thick strips of king oyster mushrooms in a large skillet until tender. Then, taking inspiration from another Chinese cooking technique, I stir in a “velveting” sauce — one thickened with a small amount of cornstarch — made of chicken stock flavored with soy sauce and garlic to coat the veggies in a glossy, lip-smacking jus. Once off the heat, I melt in a tablespoon of butter to add a touch of richness in a nod to the original casserole.
But the best part about this dish is the sizzled onions that get showered over the top. Just like cooking onions for making chile crisp, I start by combining cold oil and onions, then heat them together, so all the moisture in the onions boils out and leaves you with deeply caramelized strands to scatter over the beans and mushrooms.
With the onion’s umami-packed sweetness and the charred bits from the green beans, the dish brings a bold break from all the weight of the other dishes. And if a green vegetable is going to sit at the holiday table, that’s the role it should play.
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