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Green bean casserole with tarragon and hazelnuts

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The Runaway Spoon

(Read caption) This variation of green bean casserole uses fresh herbs and hazelnuts for a more sophisticated flavor in a favorite Thanksgiving dish.

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Green bean casserole is a traditional, can’t-do-without dish for many families Thanksgiving table. I have to say it though, I cannot stand the traditional version made with canned soup and fried crunchy bits. The beans are mushy, there is no telling what is in that can of soup and the oniony things are too salty.

But green beans do make a great casserole for the holidays.

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So here’s a perfect, unique version with a fresh, clean taste and a great deal of interest. I love to use tarragon to get a different herbal flavor in the mix, as I always use lots of sage and rosemary in the dressing and the bird. Toasty hazelnuts add a nice crunch, and a hit of cream, tangy mayonnaise and nutty cheese keep things in the traditional vein, while the lemon keeps it from being too cloying.

Recommended:6 ways to prepare Thanksgiving turkey

Maybe this will be a new tradition for your family table, too.

Green bean casserole with tarragon and hazelnuts
Serves 8, this recipe can easily double

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup butter
4 shallots, halved and sliced into thin half moons
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
3 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces Gruyere, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 8- by 8-inch baking dish.

2. Cut the trimmed green beans into roughly one inch pieces. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil and drop in the beans. Boil for about a minute, just until the bright color of the beans comes out. Drain the beans and plunge into cold water to cool. Drain again.

3. Wipe out the skillet and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot strands and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is soft and just beginning to turn a pale caramel brown, about 4 minutes. Add the hazelnuts, stir and cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans, tarragon, the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice until everything is evenly distributed. Set aside to cool.

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4. Mix the mayonnaise and cream together in small bowl, then add it to the green beans, stirring to coat well. Spread a layer of beans in the baking dish, sprinkle over half the cheese, then layer the remaining beans and cheese.

5. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake a further 10 minutes. Serve immediately.Note: The casserole can prepared several hours before baking and kept covered in the refrigerator.

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