Looking for a delicious new way to enjoy green beans? Make my Green Bean Gratin! I’m talking about tender beans, a velvety Swiss cheese sauce (a/k/a “Sauce Mornay”), and a crisp lid of buttery breadcrumbs. To turn this sexy side dish into a magnificent main course, just add cubed ham, shredded cooked poultry, or vegetarian “crumbles.” Here’s the recipe, along with a trip to my Kitchen Garden:
Green Bean Gratin
Video note: I added garlic powder when I said “onion powder.” The extra garlic worked out quite well! Also, concerning the cornstarch, I said “heaping teaspoon” when I meant “heaping tablespoon.” Thanks to Madame Binky, I’m probably not getting enough sleep! (The correct ingredients are listed in the printable recipe at the end of this post.)
The Beans to Use: Feel free to use fresh, frozen, or even canned green beans for this gratin. Avoid woody, fibrous, overly-mature beans — these will not soften up no matter how long you cook them.
A note for the gluten-intolerant: Use ground up, gluten-free bread for the breadcrumb component. As mentioned in the video, my version of Sauce Mornay is already gluten-free.
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And here, because I love you, is the printable recipe:
Green Bean Gratin
- 1 lb green beans, trimmed and quartered (see note below)
- Optional: 6-8 ounces cubed ham
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- A generous pinch of salt plus grinds of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon (or more, to taste) garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (or more, to taste) onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch blended with just enough water to make a smooth slurry
- 6 ounces (2 cups) shredded Swiss cheese
- Breadcrumbs from 3 slices fresh white bread
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into thin slices
- Put the cut beans and 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on "high" until the beans are tender to the tooth -- 3-5 minutes. (Canned green beans will not require this preliminary heating.) Drain the beans and then transfer them and the (optional) cubed ham to a 2-quart baking dish.
- Tip the milk into a medium-size sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and red chili flakes. When the milk begins to bubble, add the cornstarch slurry. Stir slowly and continuously until the sauce boils and thickens -- 30 seconds to 1 minute. Off heat, add the Swiss cheese. Stir until the cheese melts -- about 30 seconds.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the beans and ham, and then stir to combine. Top with the breadcrumbs and dot with the butter.
- Make-ahead note: The gratin can be assembled to this point. Let it come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
- Baking -- 25-30 minutes in a preheated 325°F oven. Bake until the cheese sauce begins to bubble at the sides of the dish, and the breadcrumbs brown -- 25-30 minutes. If the top has not browned appreciably after 30 minutes, place the dish 6 inches beneath the broiler. Watch carefully so that the top doesn't burn!