You may have heard that this year marks the 55th anniversary of the green bean casserole, invented by the Campbell Soup Company to promote its cream of mushroom soup. It has been called a “Thanksgiving icon.”
Not in our house. I only encountered green bean casserole if we ate Thanksgiving dinner at the homes of friends or family. My mother disdained the idea of pouring canned soup over vegetables. Americans have made green bean casserole an “icon” because all the salt, sugar, and fat make those otherwise hearty greens taste really, really good. If Hershey’s had dreamed up cocoa covered green beans they may have been the ones celebrating the anniversary.
Remember: even though green bean casserole has clocked 55 years, the Pilgrims knew nothing of it. We strove for historical purity in our house.
The green we had on our Thanksgiving plates were peas and pearl onions. If you think about it, the simple taste of peas offers some relief from all of the all sweet mash (potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry jello) swimming around in gravy. If everything on your dinner plate is sweet, consider the pumpkin and pecan pies that follow already upstaged. Pace yourself, people.
Some stores actually carry a frozen variety of peas and pearl onions, which will beat the green bean casserole in convenience and time (Campbell’s objective, after all). Frozen peas are perfectly fine. Many frozen vegetables are frozen at the peak of their ripeness in their natural growing cycle, retaining the flavor that limp “fresh” produce often lacks this time of year.
I decided to add a little extra flavor to this Thanksgiving side dish by sautéing the pearl onions in some thick bacon. (Vegetarians can simply sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.) This is so quick and easy and you won’t have to compete for space in the oven with a casserole.
And now that you’ve eaten your peas, you have earned your dessert.
8 ounces of pearl onions
1 lb. bag of frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup (about 3 slices) thick bacon, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Blanch onions in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain, cool, peel, and trim ends. In a large skillet sautée bacon and pearl onions over medium heat until fat is rendered and the onions have browned on the ends, about 10 minutes. Add frozen peas and heat through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Serves 4 to 6.