As we approach the holiday season, many, many cans of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and French fried onions will be thrown into grocery store carts, all to be opened and their contents dumped together to create one of America's most iconic dishes, Green Bean Casserole.
The casserole has been a staple at holiday meals for decades, ever since Dorcas Reilly created the recipe in the test kitchens of Campbell's Soup in Camden, New Jersey, in 1955. Earlier this month, Reilly died at the age of 92, according to NJ.com. She created the dish to be a wholesome meal that used ingredients that most people had on hand. (Although I did wonder: Did most people really have canned French fried onions on hand in the 1950s?)
According to Beth Jolly, a Campbell's executive, the recipe wasn't well-received by the company's internal testing group at first, but because of Reilly's persistence, the recipe made it out of the test kitchen. By the 1960s, it was proudly displayed on the label of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. The original recipe card for Green Bean Casserole is now in the National Inventor's Hall of Fame.
While the recipe that Reilly created in the 1950s is still the one used by many around the holidays and throughout the year, Americans do switch it up. Those who are allergic to mushrooms or simply don't like mushrooms substitute other creamy soups like chicken or garlic. Fresh green beans or frozen green beans often replace the salt-laden canned vegetables — something most healthy eaters will appreciate. Even chef and cookbook author Alton Brown paid homage to Reilly's original recipe when he created Best Ever Green Bean Casserole, which skips the cans and uses all fresh ingredients, including the onions.
But it's Reilly's original recipe that's the favorite when it comes to nostalgia. For me, that nostalgia comes in the form of the first dinner I ever cooked on my own. The classic green bean casserole was a side dish, along with baked potatoes, for chicken parmesan.
Thanks for the cooking inspiration, Mrs. Reilly. May you rest in peace.