Amidst the turkey, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, stuffing, and rolls, the color green is often lost on the Thanksgiving table. I love this casserole as a hearty alternative to turkey for vegetarian guests, cut into small squares to serve as an appetizer, or simply served alongside a nice slice of savory bird. The fried shitake mushrooms are a wonderful touch, lending a nice kick of flavor to the mild greens. I appreciate that this dish comes together very quickly, and could even be made the day before and reheated in the oven as the turkey is finishing. Or it would be really easy to transport to another house if you've been tasked with bringing a side dish to a family gathering. Quick, simple, easily transported, filling, and delicious...what more could you ask for out of one recipe?
I have mixed feelings about swiss chard. Its fine, really, but that's about it. However, in this recipe it provides a nice earthy base from which the shitake mushrooms really shine. I think this casserole would also be lovely with lacinato kale, my favorite hearty green.
½ pound shitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
½ cup panko
¾ cup parmesan cheese
10 large eggs
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2-½ pounds swiss chard, stems discarded and leaves thinly sliced (I like to stack the leaves and roll them tightly, then slice the roll crosswise to make quick work of this task)
Preheat the oven to 350℉ and butter a shallow 9x13 ceramic baking dish. (I altered quantities some and used a 9x9 square dish…it is very easy to divide or double).
In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and transfer the mushrooms to a paper towel-lined plate.
In a small bowl, toss the panko with ¼ cup of the cheese.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the cayenne, 1 tsp of salt, and ½ cup of cheese. Stir in the swiss chard and mushrooms. Scrape the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until the eggs are just set around the edges.
Sprinkle the panko on top of the casserole and bake for about 10-15 more minutes, until the casserole is fully set and the topping is lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Across the country cookbooks and magazines have been poured through, pages dog-eared and marked with post-it notes of all colors as folks finalize their Thanksgiving menus. Lists are made, non-perishable foods have been purchased and trips to the grocery for fresh veggies and dairy products have been scheduled. Sweet potatoes are tucked away in dark pantries, waiting for hands to scrub, peel and cube them to boil, roast, mash or bake on Thursday.
Growing up, sweet potatoes were never an exciting part of our Thanksgiving menu. They made the occasional appearance and never left much of an impression on me. Brian and I have hosted Thanksgiving twice now since being married, and only once have they made it on our table after a guest offered to bring them with her to dinner. Its not that I have anything against the orange-fleshed tuber, in fact I purchase them throughout the year to eat baked and topped with steamed broccoli, kernels of plump corn and a generous sprinkle of sea salt. Its just that, traditionally, I enjoy them in savory form rather than sweetened as they are in most Thanksgiving recipes.
Not wanting to give up just yet, I decided to give sweet potatoes a try again this year. Originally I planned to find a savory recipe to test, but elected instead to give a sweet recipe another shot; to stick with tradition for at least one more year before abandoning the concept entirely. My momma sent me a classic version that she insisted I had liked in the past, one that she assured me was much more enjoyable than the soupy, marshmallow-topped dishes I described from my own memory.
The potatoes are boiled, mashed, whipped and sweetened, then smothered with a crumbly streusel-like topping before being baked until golden brown. The result is neither soupy nor pasty, is in fact pleasantly fluffy with the contrasting crunch of sugared pecans. It is quite sweet, so much so that I would probably categorize it as a dessert rather than a side, although my momma tells me that when paired with other savory bites on a Thanksgiving plate it is altogether balanced. No matter when it is served, this casserole deserves a place at the table.
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (4 large or one 29-oz can)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), melted
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), melted
1/2 cup flour
1 cup pecans, chopped
If using raw sweet potatoes, peel them as best you can and chop them into small chunks. Boil for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Mash until nearly smooth.
Mix in eggs, butter, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt. Add cream slowly and blend until fluffy (use whisk attachment if using a stand mixer), stopping before potatoes become soupy.
Spoon sweet potato mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Preheat oven to 350*.
Mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl. Spread over sweet potato mixture.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until topping is deep golden brown.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!
2009 has been a tough year for many. Even though we've hit speed bump after speed bump, I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving:
Our family and very close friends, all of whom are so incredibly supportive of Brian and I.
My employers, for pushing through and doing all they can in a difficult time.
Brian, my love, who always knows how to make me smile when things get tough.
I’ve never really considered Thanksgiving dinner to be “The Meal of the Turkey”, like so many do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a well-cooked bird. Especially when it smokes all day on the Big Green Egg after having soaked in a sweet-salty brine for the twelve hours prior. I always take a modest piece, allow my cranberry juice to run underneath and turn the flesh a rosy pink, then cut it into small bites that I bury amidst forkfuls of fluffy mashed potatoes. Its an enjoyable piece of the Thanksgiving tradition, one that I gave up the year I was a vegetarian and admit that I did miss, although not as much as I would miss some of the accompaniments were I to ban cranberries, or potatoes, or pie (heavens what a tragedy that would be!) from my diet.
When I stand at the buffet table and survey the offerings laid out before me on Thanksgiving Day, it is all of the other “supporting” or “side” dishes that I get really excited about. The homemade rolls, the roasted vegetables, the tart-sweet cranberry sauce, the stuffing composed of spicy sausage and earthy sage, the fact that I can choose to pile two different types of potatoes on my plate - one sweet with a topping of pecans (recipe to come) and the other mashed with chunks of celery root. And of course, the green bean casserole. My absolute favorite dish on the table (aside from the desserts, which are a whole other story).
For most of my life the green bean casseroles of Thanksgiving came from the recipe on the back of the French's French Fried Onions container. It is quick, simple and perfectly delicious. When I told my momma that I'd found a wholly from-scratch recipe in the New York Times that I was planning to test out before the big day she simply asked "why?!?", assuring me that my readers wouldn't want to abandon the tradition of mixing Campbell's cream-of-mushroom soup with frozen green beans and popping the foil top on the red and white cylindrical canister filled with crunchy bits of onion. Why would you stray from a recipe that has proved itself reliable year after year? Because, friends, this version is even better.
It seems tedious, I know, to make your own cream-of-mushroom soup for this casserole when you can simply whip out a can opener and have what you need in a mere 30 seconds. And maybe frying up your own crunchy onions seems like too much trouble as well when somebody has already packaged them up and made them available at grocery stores across the world. But with a little forethought (the mushroom soup can be made up to 24 hours in advance) and only 60 seconds to fry your onion rings, you'll have a dish worthy of supporting the star of the show. Just don't be surprised if the turkey gets upstaged...
1 lb button mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellos)
2 small red onions, chopped
4 oz butter (1 stick)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs (I used panko)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 pearl onions, thinly sliced
In a food processor or blender, combine 1/2 the mushrooms and both onions. Blend until a smooth paste forms, and set aside
In a large, wide saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the remaining mushrooms and turn the heat up to high. Cook while stirring often, until the mushrooms release their liquid and start to crisp at the edges.
Add garlic and thyme and stir for about 30 seconds. Add mushroom-onion paste and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. Add cream and stock, and salt and pepper to taste. At this point the mushroom mixture may be cooled and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and fill another bowl with ice water. Drop the green beans in the boiling water and cook until bright green and just tender, about 60 seconds. Drain and immediately plunge the beans into the ice water. Drain well.
Preheat oven to 375*. In a large bowl combine green beans, mushroom mixture, almonds and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Transfer to a 9 x 13 baking dish and pack down the mixture to level it. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs.
Bake, uncovered, until beans are tender and top is lightly golden, 35-40 minutes. If you wish, place under the broiler for the last couple of minutes to really crisp the top.
To garnish, heat oil in a non-stick skillet until it shimmers. Place flour in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add sliced pearl onions, toss to coat and fry in oil until golden, 30-45 seconds. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle on finished casserole.
In Other News...
Remember this pie?
Well, I've submitted it in the Bon Appetit Blog Envy Bake-Off, which Bon Appetit actually invited me to participate in! Exciting stuff, and you all can help me to make the finalists list if you visit this page and vote for my recipe in the pies/tarts/pastries category. Any support you can send my way is much appreciated! And if you're looking for a unique and delicious holiday dessert, my Plum Pie with Lemon Almond Crust could be just what you're looking for...