Let’s get Greeny….and Beany. Green Bean Casserole

Recipe Test: Paula Deen’s Green Bean Casserole

Holy crapola where has the time gone by?!  It’s OCTOBER?????? Wasn’t it just August a few days ago?!  Jesus how time has flown by.  And so much has happened.  Far out, I feel like I am suffering whiplash.

I started a new role withing the company I work for (which I absolutely love.  I can happily say I actually get excited about coming to work.  Not many people can say that!).  Along with that I managed to squeeze in a small holiday to Bali, the one country I have been to where I bawl my eyes out every time I leave.  The people, the culture, the perfect weather, It’s seriously paradise to me.  If I could I would probably “go bamboo” and live there permanently.  But alas, life goes on.  And I gots ta get paid.

That being said, we have eleven weekends before Christmas.  That’s right.  Only eleven weekends before the family chaos and gluttony that is the Christmas holiday are upon us. And Americans out there that means it’s  seven weeks until Thanksgiving.  Bring on the turkey and expandable pant wear!

Thanksgiving, or Turkey Day as the hubster and I call it, is my favourite holiday.  As a kid, it was the one time of year my mum let me eat easy cheese and gorge on ranch dip before la piece de resistance, the turkey with all the trimmings, came out to the table.  At uni, my friends and I would gather together and have a “friendsgiving” and again stuff ourselves silly and just have a good laugh around the table.

When I got married, I really missed being able to celebrate this holiday with my family and friends, and the hubster being the man that he is really wanted to try cooking a turkey on his new toy, the keg spit.  And so, Turkey Day was born.  We’ve managed to keep this tradition going (with the exception of last year.  We were away on an adventure on Fraser Island), with every year getting bigger with more friends and coworkers coming and better as our spit roasting technique improves.  If you haven’t tried it yet, dear God go find a spit roast and roast your turkey on it.  Best. Bird. Ever.

Along with the traditional turkey I always make a green bean casserole to go along with it.  It’s not Thanksigiving unless you have a green bean casserole, well at least it was at my friend’s houses and in my uni days.  Green bean casserole is an excellent side dish to any holiday or Sunday roast, and there are heaps of different recipes out there you can try.  But today I’m going to test out Paula Deen’s green bean casserole recipe.

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Paula Deen, the Butter Queen. Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Now if you don’t know who Paula Deen is, you certainly are in for a very southern treat.  She’s the butter queen, with the majority of her recipes using butter in one form or another.  As the years go by her hair just seems to defy gravity more and more, and that southern drawl just adds pizzazz to her TV personality.  She had a major setback a few years ago due to a rather public lawsuit, but I’m sure that her heart attack inducing, sinfully delicious recipes will endure.

I’ve also done something rather different this time around.  I’ve actually shot video of the entire test and posted up on my Youtube channel.  I hope you have a watch of it.  And yes, I’m cooking in activewear, and the cat video bombs at some point.  It’s my first time trying to film a test so be kind!

Alright, moving on.  Here’s Paula’s version ya’ll.

Ingredients

  • 1 pinch Paula Deen’s House Seasoning
  • 1 (2.8 oz, or 80 grams) can French-fried onion rings
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz, or 304 grams) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups sliced green beans
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/3 stick (38 grams) butter
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the butter.
  3. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain.
  4. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings and House Seasoning to taste. Stir well.
  5. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted.

The Good, The Bad, The Inedible

The Good – With just five steps this recipes is so bloody easy.  The step that took the longest time was the baking part, and if you play your cards right, cleaning up should only take you a few minutes.  No seriously, I’m better at making a mess and it took me maybe five minutes to clean everything up.

The Bad – If you’re on a diet this is not the recipe for you.  Like I said Paula Deen is the butter queen, and  1/3 of a stick (or 38 grams) is a fuckton of butter for the amount of casserole this recipe actually makes.  The other problem I encountered (and this is shown on the video) is that soup can sizes are not universal.  10 3/4 ounces is actually 304 grams, and soup cans here in Australia are 420 grams.  So in the second test I actually had to measure out 304 grams, which come out to dead on 1 cup, leaving about a 1/4 of the tin left.   This is perfect proof why it’s always good to do a second test.  I’m pretty sure this is the first time where human error played a part in Clem’s Recipe Reviews.

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Now the soup can size isn’t Paula’s fault, at least I don’t think so.  But looking at her video and even the images on her site I doubt that she uses even the full can of cream of mushroom soup.  I got curious and had a look for soup can sizes in the US, and the standard is 10.5 ounces, so sorry Paula, I think your ingredient amount is a bit flawed. A full can with the amount of actual vegetables this recipe calls for really makes this dish Cream of Mushroom casserole instead of a green bean casserole.  You really only taste the soup contents and the cheese on the top, and if you’re wanting to taste the green beans, that’s just not going to happen in this recipe.

Paula also calls for you to add the fried onions into the casserole itself.  Now this does make the onion flavour slightly stronger, but the casserole as whole then lacked texture.  Cooked vegetables are just soft and could use something to boost the flavour factor here too.  So I would sprinkle them on top of the casserole at the very end to give the dish that extra bit of crunch and a bit of  extra flavour.

Might not sound like a big deal but I think your pan size is also important here.  Paula says to use a 1.5 quart dish to bake the casserole in.  Look this is entirely up to you, but it seemed to me that an 8×11 (if you stick with Paula’s recipe) or 9×12 dish (if you stick with mine) actually seemed to work better in keeping the soup mixture from boiling over the cheese at the very end. Just sayin’.

The Inedible – did I mention how much butter there is in this?  That’s all you can taste and your mouth is just coated in it after one bite.  I get it Paula, you love butter.  But ma’am, this time around you’ve gone a tad bit overboard.

To improve this recipe I added more of most of the ingredients to really get the green beans to be the main character of this dish and to give it different dimensions of flavour, but also so I could use a whole can of soup.  Because I mean seriously, who is going to use 100 grams of soup?  I think the amended version below is still worth a shot if you are stateside and have the 10.5 ounce cans.  You might find it not to be as thick and much closer to what Paula’s site images and video are.

If you have time, try out Paula’s house seasoning.  But if you have a go to recipe or brand, use it.  Mine is Old Bay.  It’s incredibly rare to find over here so I have a stash of it and go absolutely apeshit when I do find it at Costco.  Also onion rings are another rare find, but fried shallots from your local Asian grocery store are an excellent replacements.

I also cut the butter by half, and switched around the first two steps.  I found if I did the green beans first, and then sauteed the onions and mushrooms, then the green beans had plenty of time to drain and get as much water out as possible.  I also added garlic, because onions and garlic go together like PB & J.  Plus you’re already going to have onion breath, may as well have garlic breath too!

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Paula Deen’s House Seasoning, or your go-to seasoning mix
  • 1 (2.8 oz, or 80 grams) can French-fried onion rings, or fried shallots
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz, or 304 grams) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups sliced green beans
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/6 stick (19 grams) butter
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. (175 degrees….180 is perfectly fine)
  2. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain.
  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the butter.
  4. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, and seasoning. Stir well.
  5. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted. Top with fried shallots.

And here without further a due is my video…..be prepared, it’s not the greatest quality but hey, I’m proud with what I’ve done!

Laissez les bons Temps Rouler, Mate

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  I would say sorry, but….meh.  Quite honestly I just didn’t feel like writing.  Between work, an upcoming bathroom renovation, and everything else life throws at you, eating leftover Easter chocolate on the lounge with a snuggly snoring kitty on my lap was way more attractive than writing a blog.  But anyway, I’m back after a little break and I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew (quite literally) with today’s test.

Today I’m testing a full meal. A main with meat and two sides. I let the hubby pick this one out from the April 2017 edition of Taste.com.au’s magazine.  And what he chose somewhat took me back to my roots – Creole chicken, red rice and black beans and spicy garlic spinach.  My family lived in New Orleans for a few years while my dad went to law school in Tulane.  I was pretty young, but spicy tomatoey smells that creep off a good jamablaya always take me back to my mum (to me and the other Francophones out there, my Maman), cooking this famous dish in the kitchen.

Taste magazine is a staple of Australian home cooking magazines alongside Australian Women’s Weekly and Delicious magazine.  I love the photographs in Taste.  They always have a knack to make anything look delicious and appetizing.  But, there have been times that I’ve found the recipes being high inaccurate, leading to undercooked dishes and off tastes.  So let’s dive in and get started on this review!

Creole Chicken

4 chicken marylands
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Finely grated rind and juice of 3 limes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 210C/190C fan forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel, then use a sharp knife to score in parallel lines.

Place the paprika, cumin, allspice, garlic powder, lime zest and juice, and oil in a bowl. Stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper. Rub onto the chicken. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible, to marinate.

Place the chicken on prepared tray. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is lightly blackened and firm to touch.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

There is one thing with this recipe that is fundamentally wrong (and downright stupid).  Unless you have midget chickens, or you don’t know the difference between spatch cock and chicken, there is absolutely no way you can cook 4 chicken marylands at once and completely in 25 minutes.  Seriously Taste and Fast Ed, what were you thinking?!

Let’s make something very clear here.  If you are a national publication where experienced cooks as well as novices are relying on your publication to show them how to make a show stopping meal, make your instructions specific.  Tell the reader what weight of meat the recipe requires, or at least tell them to what internal temperature they need to cook the meat to.  Unless you’re following that shitty and stupid trend on Facebook where you eat chicken cooked rare, or you want salmonella poisoning, then yes by all means cook these birds for only 25 minutes!  But if you want to stay alive like me, check the weight of your chicken legs, and calculate how long you need to cook them for.  “Firm to the touch” doesn’t mean shit. Typically I use 30 minutes for every half kilo of meat, and when the internal cooking temperature reaches 75 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Fahrenheit).  That’s never steered me wrong.



Now, on to the seasoning.  This is close to Creole seasoning, but just doesn’t do it for me.  Traditional Creole seasoning is earthy, garlicky and above all else, has a bit of a spicy kick to it.  With this seasoning, all you taste is lime.  Not one recipe I have seen calls for limes in a creole seasoning.  Granted though, the lime zest and juice does give it a nice punch, but three limes is just way too much.  I would suggest cut the limes back by half, and add a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to give it that kick this seasoning needs.  Throw in a few pinches of dried herbs as well if you want.

Red Rice and Black Beans

2 bacon rashers, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
750ml (3 cups) hot chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon ground sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
400g (12 ounces) can black beans, drained, rinsed
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the bacon in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, until well browned. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and cook until the mixture begins to stick to the base of the pan.

Add the chicken stock, sage and thyme and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the moisture has been absorbed. Stir in the beans. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with the lid and set aside for 20 minutes. Fluff the mixture with a fork just before serving.

This is Fast Ed’s version of the traditional New Orleans dish Red Beans and Rice.  Now all the ingredients seem fine and taste okay .  But this side dish to be honest, is pretty ordinary and two-dimensional.  Like the ragu I made in a previous post, this just tastes like a tin of tomatoes and some rice.  Really nothing to write home to Maman about.


I played around with this and tried a few different ways to get the depth of flavour, from different seasonings to different types of stock and nothing really met my expectations.  Then I found the answer.

Beer.

Glorious beer!

Replacing the stock with beer and adding a couple of spices also used in the chicken just took this side to a whole new level along with changing the texture of the rice and making it so much more moist and soft.  And oh man, it was pretty tasty!  I would use any light coloured beer you have.  A dark ale would make it a bit too over the top I reckon, but a lager works perfectly.

The other flaw with this side dish is unless you have a hollow leg, this won’t serve 4 people, it’s more 6 serves in the proportions of this recipe, so I would half everything if you want to not have any leftovers.

Spicy Garlic Spinach

60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 French shallots, very finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
8 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Pour the vegetable and sesame oils into a large frying pan. Heat the pan over high heat, then cook the shallot and garlic for 2 minutes or until aromatic and beginning to brown.

Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the spinach mixture to a colander to drain briefly before serving.

Don’t bother making this.  There’s no saving this one.  Cooked spinach is gross anyway.

No, seriously.  Just don’t bother!

So here is my version of the Creole Chicken and Red Rice and Black Beans.  Enjoy!

Creole Chicken à la Clem

4 chicken marylands
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 and a half limes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 210C/190C fan forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel, then use a sharp knife to score in parallel lines.

Place the paprika, cumin, allspice, garlic powder, lime zest and juice, and oil in a bowl. Stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper. Rub onto the chicken. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible, to marinate.

Place the chicken on prepared tray. Bake until the chicken is lightly blackened and is at an internal temperature of 75 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Farenheit).  The chicken will be well done if you allow 30 minutes of cooking time per half kilo.

Red Rice and Black Beans

1 bacon rashers, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle of beer
1/2 teaspoon ground sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tespoon paprika
1/2 can to full can of kidney or black beans, drained, rinsed
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the bacon in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, until well browned. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and cook until the mixture begins to stick to the base of the pan.

Add the chicken stock, sage and thyme and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the moisture has been absorbed. Stir in the beans. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with the lid and set aside for 20 minutes. Fluff the mixture with a fork just before serving.