On many occasions, chefs were inspired to cook at home during their childhoods—and it’s no different for Alex Guarnaschelli, renowned chef at Butter restaurant and star of her own TV show, Alex’s Day Off on the Food Network. Alex’s mom is a legendary cookbook editor, and Alex often watched and helped her mom test recipes at home in Manhattan.
Of course there’s more to her journey, which you can discover in Alex’s recently published cookbook: Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook
In the book, which went on sale April 9th (which happens to be little S’s birthday), Alex, also a mom to young daughter, shares stories about her childhood, her journey on learning how to cook, tips for cooking at home, as well as some of her favorite recipes: angel hair pasta with caviar and lemon, roasted squash soup with popcorn, pasta with spicy lamb sausage and yellow tomato sauce, overnight garlic bread and other non-traditional comfort foods.
Home cooks can learn some great tips from Alex who is a seasoned cook both in her restaurant and at home. For dinner one night, enjoy her rendition of this old-fashioned dinner: Green Bean Casserole. If you’re interested in more of her homespun recipes, check out: Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook
Green Bean Casserole
from Alexandra Guarnaschelli
Serves 8 to 10
This recipe was cleverly conceived by Campbell’s Soup in the fifties to encourage the use of their products and the result has been millions of bastardized versions of a perfectly good dish. Here, we will make it from scratch and enjoy the richness with the different textures. I look at this as a form of vegetarian stew. The mushrooms and cream make the green beans so juicy. I am always surprised at how much taste the green beans have in this recipe.—Alex Guarnaschelli
1 pound string beans, ends trimmed, halved
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound white mushrooms, stemmed and sliced into ½-inch slices (about 4 cups)
1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
4 cups canola oil
2 medium red onions, cut into thin rounds
1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice cubes and add some cold water. Set a colander squarely inside the ice bath. The colander will keep you from having to pick the ice out of the beans.
2. Prepare the green beans: When the water boils, add 2 tablespoons salt and the green beans. Cook until the beans yield slightly when pierced with the tip of a knife, 4 minutes. Using a strainer, remove the green beans from the hot water and transfer them to the colander inside the ice bath. Swirl the beans around in the bath so they cool quickly. Drain and set aside.
3. Make the mushroom base: In a 10-inch cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the mushrooms. Season with salt, 1 teaspoon of the cayenne, and the mustard. Stir to blend and cook until the mushrooms give off most of their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a whisk, add the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the flour. When all of the flour has been incorporated, add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the cream and sour cream and simmer gently. Continue cooking over low heat until the mixture thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. You should have about 2 cups.
4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
5. Fry the onions: Meanwhile, pour the oil into a medium frying pan. Heat to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with a kitchen towel and have ready a slotted spoon.
6. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup flour and remaining ½ teaspoon cayenne. Toss the onion rounds in the flour and shake off excess by shaking the rounds in a strainer. Test the oil by dropping in one onion slice. It should begin to bubble and fry gradually. Drop a small batch of the onions into the oil and gently swirl them as they fry. When they are light to medium brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, remove with the slotted spoon and lay them out on the kitchen towel to cool. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat until all of the onions have been fried.
7. Assemble the casserole: Stir the green beans into the mushrooms. Simmer on the stove, over low heat, until the green beans become tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in half of the onions. Transfer the skillet to the oven for 10 minutes to give the casserole that baked effect. Top the outside of the dish with the remaining onions and serve.