Origin of a Dish: Green Bean Casserole

I want to stick my face in it.

The most recent issue of Martha Stewart’s Food magazine contains an abomination: a recipe for Green Bean Casserole in which all of the components are made from scratch. Shallots are hand-breaded and pan-fried. Mushrooms are seasoned and sauteed in cream. Ridiculous!

My mom and I got into a heated debate over the legitimacy of this recipe. Mom thought it might be good; I conceded that it might. However, this recipe takes a dish that was designed to be extraordinarily simple and makes it incredibly complicated!

I say don’t fix what ain’t broke. Green Bean Casserole was created in the 1950’s during an era of canned convenience food. It has survived as a traditional Thanksgiving side dish not only because of its simplicity, but because it happens to be delicious.

From the Campbell’s Kitchen webpage:

“Deemed the ‘mother of comfort food,’Dorcas Reilly led the team that created the Green Bean Casserole in 1955, while working as a staff member in the Home Economics department of the Campbell Soup Company.

…She says the inspiration for the Green Bean Casserole was to create a quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950s: green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Like all great recipes, the casserole requires minimal number of ingredients (just five), doesn’t take much time, and can be customized to fit a wide range of tastes.

In 2002, Mrs. Reilly appeared at the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame to donate the original copy of the recipe to the museum. The now-yellowed 8 x 11 recipe card takes its place alongside Enrico Fermi’s invention of the first controlled nuclear reactor and Thomas Alva Edison’s two greatest hits: the light bulb and the phonograph.”

Dorcas Reilly scooping out casserole at the Inventors’ Hall of Fame.

This Thanksgiving, reenact a tiny bit of American history, and make the classic Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole.

Classic Green Bean Casserole
from Campbell’s Kitchen

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular 98% Fat Free)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French’s® French Fried Onions

1. Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.
2. Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.
3. Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

 

Update 12-18-2013: a few updates! Dorcas Reilly’s Alma Mater has created a scholarship in her name. Campbells Soup sells approximately $20 million dollars worth of Cream of Mushroom soup during the holidays. Reilly “… always keeps the ingredients for the casserole on hand in her Haddonfield home just in case someone asks her to whip one up. This Thanksgiving, her family will get a new version — with carrots.” (source)

8 Responses to “Origin of a Dish: Green Bean Casserole”


  • Thanks a lot for making me agree with Martha Fucking Stewart.

  • I never serve this abomination at my house! About 3-4 years ago I attended a potluck dinner hosted by a service club to which I belong — over half the dishes on the table were some variation of Green Bean Casserole, so, needless to say, I had a rather skimpy dinner that night. I am not a foodie by any stretch of the imagination, but I have never had a good Green Bean Casserole. To be polite, I take a spoonful or two and then eat the french fried onions.

  • If this dish wasn’t on the table at Thanksgiving, my two sons would not come home for dinner. It is a traditional dish that if I tried to “improve”, I will hear about it during the meal. This is an American dish that we should be proud of it’s pure simplicity and delicious flavor.

  • I’ve made Martha Stewart’s green bean casserole. After all that work, I might as well have just made the usual version. It just didn’t taste that much different.

  • I made a green bean casserole for the first time last Thanksgiving. I totally misread the recipe (oops) and put in a tablespoon of soy sauce instead of a teaspoon. I thought it was going to be a total disaster, but everyone LOVED it. I was floored!

  • I have not seen Martha Stewart’s recipe, but I have made the World’s Best Green Bean Casserole from A Veggie Venture the past several years, and it is soooooo much better than the one I used to make. We have been married 24 years, and ALWAYS had the “classic” green bean casserole at Thanksgiving – though we always added canned mushrooms, and NEVER used soy sauce – up until 2005 when I had to go gluten free and could no longer use Cream of Mushroom soup or canned French fried onions. When I discovered the from-scratch recipe, I was thrilled that I could have one of my favorite dishes again. As a plus, it is much more flavorful, and it is more work, but a lot of fun to make. For people who wish to consume less processed food and more fresh food, it is a wonderful thing to be able to make a “classic” that uses only the fresh ingredients of their choice. What a boon for people who have various dietary concerns – gluten, salt, dairy, etc. – as the recipe can be tweaked to accommodate their health issues. And for those who don’t care, they can still use the “classic” recipe.

    Here is the link to the recipe I found several years ago, and have been thankful for ever since!

    http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/2006/11/worlds-best-green-bean-casserole.html

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