I know, it’s the middle of summer and not a holiday, where you usually expect to see a green bean casserole, but the garden keeps giving and there are only so many things to do with green beans. We don’t care for sour green bean salads, so that doesn’t leave much else. Although we are both familiar with that casserole made with canned soup and canned fried onions, it was never a fetish at either of our parents’ homes on holidays, so I feel free to make it my own without violating any holiday rituals. If you have air conditioning during this hot summer, you might want to try this dish now when it’s not overshadowed by a holiday turkey.
I made one big change to the beloved casserole which might seem like heresy to you if it is a staple at your holiday—no French fried onions! Instead, I sautéed thinly sliced onions until brown before adding the mushrooms and beans to a white sauce. Another option would be to caramelize the onions for a richer addition. Still the dish needed a topping, so I used buttered fresh breadcrumbs—a nice choice.
Green beans can be Frenched in your food processor by stacking them in the chute and using the slicing blade. I don’t know where I learned this, but I’m sure it was some Internet tip that has saved us from slicing beans individually. The resulting beans are surprisingly well-sliced, if not perfect. Even if you don’t make the casserole, just making French style green beans is a nice change if you have been overwhelmed by your garden this summer. Another benefit is that the beans cook more quickly when sliced.
Stack beans lengthwise in food processor chute
Frenched in seconds
Saucy and crispy
Garden Green Bean Casserole
Preheat oven to 350°
- 3-4 cups fresh green beans, stem end removed
- 1 medium or 2 small onions, thinly sliced
- 10 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- salt & pepper to taste
- Crumb topping: 1.5 cups fresh breadcrumbs tossed with 4 tablespoons melted butter
- Stack green beans lengthwise in chute of food processor. All my beans fit without trimming, but you could cut them to fit if needed. Using medium slicing blade, press beans through. I had to fill the chute three times.
- Toss the cut beans in boiling water and simmer for about 6 minutes or until the beans begin to wilt. Drain and set aside.
- In large skillet, sauté onions over medium heat in 4 tablespoons butter until browned. Stir in sliced mushrooms and continue to sauté until mushrooms are cooked down, their liquid has evaporated, and they have browned.
- Stir flour into onion, mushroom, butter mixture until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. The mixture will be dry and clumpy, but that’s fine.
- Stir in milk, continuing to stir until all the flour mixture is distributed and smooth. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thickened.
- Stir in the cooked green beans.
- Pour into baking dish and top with crumb mixture.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until crumbs are nicely browned.
This stew started with a recipe someone photocopied and gave to us years ago, which I adapted and simplified to fit the kinds of hearty, rustic flavors I thought better suited the venison. I used two pounds of cubed venison, for which you could substitute beef or pork. We butcher our own deer, and you can see in the photo that we keep it lean, so you need more cooking oil if using a lean cut of meat in the stew.
I really dislike the taste and texture of potatoes in this stew and don’t think it needs any starchy accompaniment, but I could see serving it with rice or noodles, if you really need that.
Browning the meat
First stage of cooking
Earthy Venison Stew
- 2 lbs venison, cut in one inch cubes
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (or more—venison is very lean)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6-8 oz cremini or baby portobello mushrooms, halved or quartered
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 3-4 cups venison or beef stock
- 4-6 carrots, sliced (not too thinly, because they need to stand up to long cooking)
- 3-4 cups fresh green beans, cut in about one inch lengths
- 10 juniper berries, crushed, tied in cheesecloth
- 1/2 cup dried cherries, unsweetened if you can find them (good luck)
- Salt to taste
- Shake venison with flour and pepper until coated. Heat olive oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown cubes in small batches to brown evenly. Remove meat to platter until all is browned.
- Reduce heat to medium. In same pan, adding more oil, if needed, add onion. Cook until translucent, then add mushrooms and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms have begun to brown.
- Stir in tomato paste until well blended.
- Return browned meat to pan with orange juice and 2 cups beef stock. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Raise heat to medium again. Add carrots, green beans, and juniper berry package. Add at least one more cup of beef stock—you’re trying here to make sure you are making a stew, not a soup. Bring to boil and then cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Remove juniper berry packet. Stir in dried cherries. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, using the last cup of stock, if needed.
The floured meat thickens the gravy, but you could add more thickener if you find you need it. Serve the stew in a bowl or over rice or noodles. The combination of venison, mushrooms, juniper berries, and cherries creates a unique flavor that is perfect on a cold winter night. It would be even better in a cabin in the woods with the fireplace flickering.
Not a casserole, but still a one-dish meal, it’s easy to roast or grill any of the variety of vegetables that are available in the summer and combine them with pasta, with or without meat for a terrific summer meal. Roasted vegetables have such a rich flavor that you don’t need a complicated list of ingredients for this meal to satisfy. I only used zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, added browned cubes of chicken, and a light chicken sauce to some nice Italian pasta. It was a great meal for last week’s company at the end of a busy day.
Mafaldine, a long curly pasta
Vegetables ready for the oven
Noodles and Roasted Vegetables
Pre-heat oven to 350°
- 12-16 oz Wegmans Italian Classics Mafaldine, long curly pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 1.5 lbs Wegmans Organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in chunks and browned in butter and oil
- 2 small-medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise, then sliced in half-inch chunks
- 3-4 carrots sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch rounds (were they called pennies in your house?)
- 1/2 lb small cremini mushrooms, quartered
- 1-2 small onions, roughly chopped
- Olive oil and butter (see directions)
- Salt and pepper (nouns here)
- 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon® chicken base, dissolved in 2 cups boiling water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with about 1/4 cup cold water
This is one of those meals that has to be orchestrated for everything to be put together when the pasta is done. Start with the vegetables. Place the cut vegetables in a 13″ x 9″ ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil, stirring to distribute. Salt and pepper (verbs here). Place uncovered in oven and roast until browned. This will take at least a half hour.
While the vegetables are roasting, cube the chicken breasts. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. The butter helps the browning and the oil helps keep the butter from burning. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. If you have too much chicken to brown without crowding in the pan, brown the chicken in batches. Set aside until the vegetables are done.
When the vegetables are about done, boil the water for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, re-heat the pan with the chicken, add the bouillon mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture, then add the roasted vegetables. A cornstarch-based sauce will thicken in a few minutes. Drain the noodles and place in a large pasta bowl. Pour the chicken-vegetable mixture over the pasta. Eat.