Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: A new take on an old favourite

With Easter approaching, it's time to think about the dinner and its accompanying side dishes

I’ve just returned from a week in winterland (Calgary, not Winnipeg), where I enjoyed one lovely day; and then the cold and snow returned with a vengeance. There was nothing like returning to above freezing temperatures, sunshine, and flowers blooming in my garden, albeit crocuses. I’m ever grateful to be living in the Okanagan!

With Easter soon to be upon us, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to look at a couple of side dishes to go with your baked ham this holiday. The first recipe is a spin-off on an old green bean casserole dish that was made with canned ingredients; but this one is so much better, being made from scratch. Don’t like beans? The second recipe is a wonderful creamy carrot casserole that will add colour and taste to any meal. The breadcrumb topping can be made up to a day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature. The carrots can be chopped up to a day ahead, covered with a moist paper towel, and stored in a resealable plastic bag.

Absolutely Delicious

Green Bean Casserole

2 (12 oz.) packages frozen French cut green beans

8 oz. crimini mushrooms, quartered (or any mushroom you like)

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, finely chopped or thinly sliced

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp. flour

1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch ground black pepper

1/2 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 (2.8 ounce) can French fried onions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place green beans into saucepan and fill with about 1/2 inch of water. Bring to a boil and steam until beans are tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Drain and toss with the mushrooms. Set aside.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and parsley; cook and stir until onion is tender. Whisk in flour until blended, then mix in lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Gradually whisk in milk, stirring constantly so no lumps form, then stir in sour cream. Warm over medium heat until the sauce begins to bubble. Dump in the green beans and mushrooms, stirring to coat.

Remove from the heat and toss briefly with some of the Cheddar cheese and French fried onions, saving some of each to sprinkle over the top. Spoon into a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish and top with the reserved onions and cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese melts, about 15 minutes. Delicious!

Creamy Carrot

Casserole

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds carrots, cut on the bias into 1/4-inch-thick pieces

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1- 1/2 cups heavy cream

3 medium garlic cloves, smashed

1-1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 350 F and arrange a rack in the middle. Lightly coat a 2-quart casserole or 11-by-7-inch baking dish with butter, and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add carrots, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots just start to brown, about 7 minutes.

Evenly sprinkle flour over carrots, stirring constantly. Cook until flour turns golden in colour, about 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly pour in cream while constantly stirring, bring to a boil, then remove from heat.

Transfer to the prepared dish and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake until cream is bubbling and carrots just give way when pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add garlic and cook until butter just begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add breadcrumbs to the pan and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir occasionally until panko is lightly browned and toasted, about 5 minutes.

Remove to a medium bowl and discard garlic. When casserole is ready, remove foil and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs evenly over top before serving.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.