My mother’s green bean casserole, which we affectionately refer to as Mrs. Kinney’s Green Beans, has been a staple of our holiday meals since the early 1960s. I don’t know where my mother got the recipe, and I have been unable to find anything like it in old magazines or on the web.

Keep in mind that this recipe is not haute cuisine, and would be unremarkable if not for the fact it reminds me of a time when out of season fresh foods were unavailable. Fresh foods were eaten in season, so by the holidays green beans came in cans. Therefore, this recipe requires canned green beans– substituting fresh would miss the point.

One thing I have improved upon is the cheese, and it is the cheese that gives this dish its flavor. My mother would always buy the block of white ‘Swiss’ cheese at the store; the only similarity to real Swiss cheese was in the holes. Now we have access to artisanal producers of domestic Swiss-styled cheeses as well as imported cheeses from Europe, so I substitute a mixture of 2/3 Emmentaler and 1/3 Gruyere cheese.

Mrs. Kinney’s original recipe calls for no topping, although several family members have experimented with breadcrumbs and even crushed corn flakes. I don’t use a topping, but my sister has had some success adding crisped onions on top. So leave it bare or add a topping- just don’t substitute for the canned green beans!

Ingredients (can be halved)

2 Tbs. Flour

2 Tbs. Butter

1 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Pepper or to taste

3 Cups of Swiss cheese (spend a little here: I use 2/3 Emmentaler and 1/3 Gruyere)

1 Tbs. Grated Onion

1 Cup of Sour Cream

1/2 Cup of Milk

4 Cans Cut Green Beans, Drained

Preheat oven to 350

Make a roux of flour and butter. Cook the roux while stirring long enough to turn brown. Add the onion to the roux and then pour in the milk, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and add the beans, making sure to coat all of them with the roux. Then add the sour cream and cheese, tossing to mix. Bake in a casserole for 20 minutes uncovered, letting the cheese brown on top. Let rest, and then serve as a side dish. Makes a great leftover.

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