Ahhh Thanksgiving – America’s most favorite Holiday – at least if you compare the amount of holidays you get for Thanksgiving and the emphasis put on the actual dinner -makes me think that it might be a bigger holiday than Christmas.
This year marks my 14th Thanksgiving and every year I find myself thinking back of my very first Thanksgiving. I just had moved to the US and my good friend Kris invited me to her families Thanksgiving. Was I in for a surprise: I had never seen this much food on a table prior in my life and we Germans know about big portions. I also like to remember that particular Thanksgiving as it was the only Thanksgiving that I celebrated with my parents as their visit coincided with Thanksgiving.
The next 13 years I hosted most of the Thanksgiving dinners and started prepping and cooking days before the big day to make sure that Thanksgiving dinner cooked by a German would be of the same or better (food) experience as if it would have been cooked by an American who has been raised with Thanksgiving “in their blood”. It must be a little bit unnerving to have your Holiday meal cooked by a German expecting Turkey and mashed potatoes and not having to fear to be surprised with pigs feet and Sauerkraut instead.
I want to think that I have mastered the Thanksgiving dishes, even the most tricky part of keeping the turkey moist and I try to stay pretty true to the Thanksgiving menu items. There is though one dish I like to alter and bring some German flair to the table and that’s my mum’s take on the American Green Bean Casserole.
We make fresh green beans with onions and bacon and let them simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, the end result is a healthy and fresh but yet hearty tasting bean “casserole”. There is one special ingredient we use in Germany for this dish and its called “Bohnenkraut”, loosely translated bean herb. I haven’t found it yet in Seattle and bring mine back from Germany. Its not a make or break for the dish but if you ever are in Germany and would like to try it, ask a clerk in a German supermarket for Bohnenkraut (it will be in the section with all the seasonings) and bring back 1 or 2 small container. Use it very sparingly, for the below recipe you would only use 1/2 a teaspoon, it will give the dish a tiny little bit more of a “seasoned green bean taste”.
Ingredients for 4 people (double up for 8)
- 1 pound of fresh green beans
- 1/4 quarter of a big onion or half of a small onion, cut into very small pieces
- 3 or 4 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces (if you like bacon add a slice or two, if you don’t like bacon so much use less)
- 1 – 1,5 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (broth should cover the bottom of your pot 1/2 inch deep)
- salt & pepper
- a little bit of flour or corn starch (2 tablespoons) mixed in 1/2 cup of water
- Rinse off the beans and pat them dry
- Cut off the ends of the beans
- Then cut each bean into half or 3 pieces depending on how big the beans are
- Fry up the bacon in a heavy pan. If your bacon is very fatty fry it on medium heat so that the fat can “melt out” . If you fry really fatty bacon on high heat, it will “close in” the fat and then burn the bacon, so let it melt out first and then up the heat to get the bacon crispy or just stay with medium heat and give it more time to get the bacon crispy.
- Add the chopped onions and brown them with the bacon until the onions turn a little bit glassy and yellow
- After the bacon and onion are fried up (approx. 5-8 minutes on medium heat) add the beans and give them a good stir. Season with pepper and stir again.
- Add the chicken (or vegetable) broth, reduce the heat to low , put on a lid and let the beans simmer for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes try if the beans are tender, if you like them softer let them simmer for 10 more minutes. Also try if you like more salt on your beans add salt if needed.
- At the very end when the beans are done increase the heat to bring the liquid to a boil and whisk in a little bit of flour or corn starch mixed with water (don’t use the entire 1/2 cup, just a little bit at a time to get the consistency you like, it shouldn’t be super liquid and it shouldn’t be super thick, then it tastes too floury) to thicken the liquid.
This is not just a good recipe for Thanksgiving, these green beans go very well with grilled pork chops or serve it as a side dish for a brisket.