Timing is a funny thing. It seems like you meet important people in your life when the time is right. At a time when they need you. Or you need them. Such is the case with the kids’ babysitter. She started babysitting them a few months before The Husband left, and with me working full-time, the extra help came at an opportune time, allowing me to keep Madeline at home (although she does go to daycare once a week) and have an extra pair of hands when I need it. For her, she doesn’t have family nearby, and I know we fill that void for her. She often calls herself my other daughter, and unfortunately doing the math, that’s actually possible (just barely!), even though she turns 24 at the end of the month. She comes over for dinner at least once a week, off the clock, just because. Because she truly loves the kids and wants to hang out with us. She helped me paint the ceiling last weekend, but managed to swallow less paint than I did, just because, off the clock. What can I say? We’re a fun bunch. That and the cooking’s not so bad either.
I tease her about her lack of musical knowledge (“U2?! You’ve never heard of U2?!” And then she reminds me she was barely born. “Bon Jovi? Seriously, not even Bon Jovi?!”) and listen to her boyfriend woes. We test her on math terms, listen to her presentations for student teaching and make her try Pani Puri, artichokes and Portobello mushrooms.
Over the past year, she’s been trying to get Madeline to say her name, and Madeline refused. I think, honestly, she was just playing with her. Her name is Jamie, and Madeline says juice perfectly, so it’s not an issue with the letter J. She says “me” just fine. New people would come over, and Madeline would say their name perfectly, right away, without hesitation. Finally, on Christmas Eve, she said her name. Well, kind of. She called her Gigi. And so it was. She couldn’t have been more thrilled, a perfect present, and now both kids call her Gigi. She’s been with us over a year now and truly is a part of our family.
Last week she asked if we could make Green Bean Casserole. “But with fresh green beans,” she requested. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for recipes, as I wanted to steer clear of the kind of traditional Green Bean Casserole we all grew up with. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I just wanted to find a more updated and different version. The next day I did.
We planned to have it tonight, and she and Nick made it this afternoon after he was done with his homework. While she chopped and stirred, he gathered ingredients and measured. When it was baking, he took her flash cards and tested her on a test she has on Saturday, learning new words himself like linear, perpendicular and vertex. She returned the favor, testing him on words for his spelling test tomorrow.
Along with the casserole, they added this dish as the main course, using up ingredients we already had on hand. I love the roasted sausages in this recipe, and sausages for the kids are usually a home run. Madeline took one bite tonight, however, and decided it was more fun to play with her placemat.
While they were making the Green Bean Casserole earlier, I wandered into the kitchen, drawn by the amazing smell. OMG, the smell is enough to lure you, if the taste doesn’t. Garlic. Mushrooms. Shallots. Purely divine.
The taste? You just might never have that other green bean casserole again. The crispy shallots on the top replaced the ones from the can that you’re familiar with. The mushrooms throughout the recipe really make the dish, giving it a rich background that you will swoon over. The green beans, the fresh ones she wanted, retain their crispness in this recipe, quickly making the mushy canned ones a very distant memory. Like green beans? Like that old-school casserole? Make this one. You won’t be sorry. And my green-bean-hating kids even approved.
After dinner, we played two games of Chutes and Ladders. Apparently I’ve never played before. How did I miss that? Apparently I’m also terrible at the game since I lost both times. I was having trouble figuring out the concept with the slides and ladders. Clearly a long day and I was distracted. If nothing else, I served as great entertainment for my seven-year-old. My job was done.
Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots
From Best Comfort Food magazines, one of those $10 ones, not a regular circulation
1-1/2 pounds haricots verts or thin string beans, trimmed
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
12 oz white mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
12 oz pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (we used Portobello)
4 large shallots thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup freshly finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (we skipped)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 375. In an extra-large skillet, cook beans in batches in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain beans and pat dry.
2. In same skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add button and shiitake mushrooms, garlic, and thyme; cook until mushrooms are tender and excess liquid has evaporated. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Gently toss with beans.
3. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of butter in a small wide saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour. Stir in half-and-half. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in Parmesan cheese, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour sauce over green bean mixture, stirring gently just until combined. Transfer green been mixture to a greased 2-quart casserole.
4. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle bean mixture with pine nuts.
5. Meanwhile, rinse and dry saucepan. In the saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced shallots in small batches and cook about 1-1/2 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper towel to drain. Top casserole with fried shallots just before serving.
Makes 8 servings. We halved the recipe and were sorry after. Make it yourself and you’ll know why.Green Bean Casserole, Project 365