Tradition with a Twist

Thanksgiving purists, avert your eyes.

Truth be told, I can’t recall ever having a green bean casserole on the table at any of my childhood Thanksgiving celebrations. Perhaps there was one though, lovingly prepared by traditionalist grandmother, aunt, or uncle, but I sure never noticed. A holiday fraught with food complications even before I went vegan, there’s rarely been much on the expansive buffet table that got me excited, or even remotely hungry for that matter. Hunk of dry, bland turkey for you, my dear? How about a smidgen of mushy breadcrumbs swimming in a pool of their own tears? What about the gelatinous, can-shaped cranberry “sauce” that clearly has remained untouched up to this decade? No thanks, no thanks, and not on your life.

Mercifully, being that the menu remained more or less the same no matter who prepared it or where we met to eat, it became easier to predict the horrors that awaited me on that fated day of celebration. Prepared for the worst, it was a much more survivable experience, like going into battle with a map of where the landmines were hidden. It was still rough going- Downright traumatic at times, depending on the mortifying family memories that might be unearthed yet again- But at least you’d make it out alive.

Best of all, everyone would be so sick of the typical Thanksgiving fixings the next day that in spite of the copious embarrassment of leftovers, it wouldn’t be too difficult to plead for a dinner of Chinese takeout. That was the true festive meal, for all I was concerned.

Now on my own and separated by every member of my family by over 2,500 miles, I’m at a bit of a loss. I’ve finally gotten my wish, freed from the obligations of the traditional dinner, and I’m not quite sure I really want to escape it anymore. Suddenly those old-school favorites seem ripe with potential, and even though I have no plans or guests to feed, I can’t help but go back and create pieces of the feast that I always wished might be on the table.

That means combining the standard green bean casserole with an infusion of spicy sichuan peppers, just hot enough to make your lips tingle but still keep the inherent savory soul of the baked dish intact. The twist might very well horrify those who expect nothing but the same menu, year after decade after century, but for anyone who’s wanted to shake things up just a bit, I can’t think of a better dish to start with.

Sichuan (Szechuan) Green Bean Casserole

1 Pound Fresh Green Beans, Trimmed and Halved
1 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Shallot, Minced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1-Inch Fresh Ginger, Peeled and Minced
1 Cup Cremini or Button Mushrooms, Roughly Chopped
1 Cup Unsweetened, Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup Vegetable Broth
3 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1/8 – 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Sichuan Pepper*

1 Cup Fried Shallots or Onions, Divided
3/4 Cup Crispy Fried Noodles or Wonton Strips

*Given that true Sichuan peppercorns can be difficult to hunt down at times, you can omit them for an equally delicious, if less tongue-tingling experience.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Pour the sesame oil into a medium saucepan and heat over high. Once blisteringly hot, add the prepared green beans and saute while stirring briskly, until seared all over but still crisp; about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.

Return the pan to the stove, down down the heat to medium, and add the olive oil, shallot, garlic, and ginger. Cook until aromatic and just barely browned around the edges; about 8 – 10 minutes. Introduce the mushrooms next and cook until softened. If any of the vegetables threaten to stick or burn, begin adding in splashes of the non-dairy milk.

Shake up the vegetable stock and flour in a closed jar to create a slurry. Add it into the pan, stirring to thoroughly incorporate, followed by the non-dairy milk. Introduce the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, pepper flakes and Sichuan pepper next, reducing the heat to medium-low and stirring to combine. Continue to cook, stirring periodically, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.

Remove from the stove and add the green beans back into the mixture. Mix to combine, folding in 1/2 cup of the fried shallots as well. Transfer everything into a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish and top evenly with the crispy fried noodles and remaining fried shallots. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.

Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Printable Recipe

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17 thoughts on “Tradition with a Twist

  1. I may have to try this for Christmas, when both those who love a tingle are home at the same time. :-) A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you, Hannah. I hope you’ll be somewhere warm and sunny.
    janet

  2. I have NO idea why the U.S. has this thing about “Green bean casseroles”. I am guessing it’s a cultural thang like canned pumpkin and twinkies? I don’t think green beans need covering up and love them neat but if I was ever going to contemplate covering them, this wonderful duvet of vegan pride would be my recipe of choice.

    1. Ha! As if canned pumpkin and Twinkies were on par, let alone the same planet! Honestly, I don’t think those little snack cakes are made from anything found on this green earth… Anyhow, definitely a cultural thing, I’ll give you that. ;)

      1. I think twinkies are made of plutonium. Canned pumpkin is purest orange and is the next element in the table of elements next to plutonium. That’s about as close as they get ;)

  3. I’ve never had green bean casserole before- and I live in the U.S.! I guess my family is more into eating pure vegetables?
    I have no idea what to expect (food-wise) this year for Thanksgiving because my family is driving down to Kansas to visit my grandparents. They live on a cattle ranch and own a steakhouse, and I’m vegan. The irony is unreal.

      1. That is a tough one, especially because every family is different and has their own unique set of traditions. What I would do at home is bring a vegan main course that would make enough to feed everyone. That way, I knew that I would have something delicious to eat, and I could share it with anyone willing to give it a try. It was a great way to open the conversation up about veganism as well, while showing everyone just how delicious it could be. No pressure on the people stuck in their ways about having turkey, but no one going hungry or feeling left out, either.

        No matter what, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, too!

  4. Hey Hannah, what a delicious recipe you have shared to make on Thanksgiving. I have a request that ywould you like to post on some Vegan dishes? I LOVE Vegan. I also have a blog built around Vegan and traditional dishes. I would like yuou to vist it here http://www.cearaskitchen.com I’m sure you will discover some great and interesting stuff to make. I try recipies at my home and then post them on my blog. Daily it’s a new experience and new dish on the table. I invite you to my blog and it’ll please me if you could give some suggestions on how to improve my website. Thankyou very much . Keep posting interesting stuff on bitter sweets cux I love reading bittersweets daily :)

  5. Green bean casserole has never crossed the Atlantic – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on any menu over here ever. I’ve been told by US friends that there’s often a can of mushroom soup involved?! I much prefer the vegan, mushroom soup-free version I think!

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