Bean Stalker Transcript

Back Door

GUEST: Chuck

CHUCK: [knocks on AB's door]
AB: Hi, Chuck.
C: Hey, Mr. B. I brought you some more beans.
AB: Yeah, this is the third bushel this week. You know, I've cooked every green bean recipe I have ... twice.
C: Well, you ... There must be something you can do with them. Hey, my Mom, she used to make this great dish with green beans and mushrooms and then she put onions on top.
AB: [looking at us] You mean, green bean casserole?
C: Yeah, exactly! Although, you know, I doubt she'd give up the recipe. She's pretty tight with her creations.
AB: Hmm, I bet she is. Well, I'll see if I can't figure that one out myself. [taking the beans] Thanks, thanks a lot.
C: Bye, Mr. B.
AB: See ‘ya.


    Wow, green bean casserole. You know, every year of my youth, my Aunt Gert would bring green bean casserole to the Brown family reunion, and my Mom would make me eat it. Aunt Gert had a lot of money.  Urrgh. Limp beans, greasy onions, gravy out of an H. P. Lovecraft story. Finally, one year, I refused, citing The Geneva Convention. Sure enough, Aunt Gert left me out of the will.
    Still, it's an intriguing proposition. I suppose that with some sound science, the right ingredients, and a tried and true technique or two, even green bean casserole could be ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]

Whole Foods Market
Atlanta, GA – 10:15am

    Although Chuck has set me up with all the product I need, most folks begin their green bean casserole odyssey here at the megamart. Now with the exception of a few Old World favorites like fava beans and lentils, most of the beans that we know and love are members of the species Phaseolus vulgaris, which descended from one proto-bean which grew in the southern Andes thousands of years ago.
    Now, how is it that one species exhibits so much diversity? The answer, maize. That's right, the grain that we know of as corn is responsible for bringing us all of our beans. Now maize has been a staple across most of Central and South America for thousands of years. It's nutritious, but lacking in crucial amino acids like lysine. Add beans to the pot, and suddenly you've got yourself a complete protein.
    Now, once this dietary miracle became known, beans spread, adapting and evolving as it moved across the landscape and across cultures. Beans voyaged to the Old World as part of the Columbian Exchange [who] further adapted the bean, and then it came back to the New World. The result? We got ourselves a big old heap of beans.

AB: [turns around, and sees Chuck] Chuck! Why are you, of all people, shopping for beans?
C: I'm looking to add a little diversity to my breeding program. But there are so many.
AB: Well, maybe I can help you out. What you're holding there is basically the purple bean. The purple version of the standard Caprice green bean.
C: Alright, I brought a bunch of those to you this morning ...
AB: Yes.
C: ... but they're too short.
AB: Oh, well. It's a great all-purpose bean. Here we have a couple of flat varieties, the Dragon and the Romano. They can stand up to long cooking. But because they're flat, they're easy to lay on the counter and cut. So, they're good in fresh salads and things like that.
C: But do they grow tall?
AB: Tall? Not particularly.
C: Too short.

AB: Too short? Okay. Well, here. Oooh, these are lovely little Haricot Vert. Little French beans used in things like Salad Nicoise. Very tasty. Very tender.

Haricot Vert

C: But do those grow tall?
AB: Not particularly.
C: Too short. Too short.

AB: Okay. Well, you know about these guys... oh, here, Hungarian wax beans. Very, kind of tough beans. They're used often in pickling, but they don't grow particularly ...

Yellow Wax Beans

C: Do those grow tall?
AB: No, not terribly.
C: Too short.
AB: Well, that just leaves us with the good old American pole bean. This can stand up to a lot of cooking. Good in soups, stews, things like that.
C: [excited] Why do they call them "pole" beans?
AB: Poles. Well, the vine's a real grower, so they grow them up poles, trellises, things like that.
C: [manically fills his hat with the beans] It's perfect. It should give me that few extra feet. Thank you.
AB: You need a ...
C: [grabs the bean that AB is holding] Thanks, Mr. Brown. [exits]

    Regardless of the green beans that you see, you always want to make sure that they are uniform in color, like this. You don't want to see any blemishes, any dark spots. And when you bend them, they should snap crisply at about 90 degrees. If they don't, they're old. And if they're old, you don't want them. [referring to Chuck] He gives me the spooks.

The Kitchen

    [at the refrigerator] Modern green beans have been bred with a little extra fiber in them to help them survive shipping and handling. But, they still don't bear up in the refrigerator too well, because their metabolism keeps ticking even after picking. So, I wouldn't give them more than five days in here. And the trick is to seal them in an airtight container. I like zip top bags. But condensation up against the beans is a bad thing. So I generally leave the bag open, put it in the fridge, let them chill down, then suck out the air, before storage.

AB: [addressing a bag of green beans] I'll be back.

Phillip Miller, an 18th century gardener, is credited with
advocating cooking and eating green beans in their pods.

    [at the sink] Once upon a time, a tough bundle of fibers—kind of like green dental floss—ran up the spine of most green beans. Of course, it had to be stripped off before said bean could be snapped. Luckily, the string has been bred out of most modern pods, though you may still encounter them in heirloom varieties. So after a good rinse, I like to just get kind of a bundle in one hand, and then use my thumb and forefinger to break off the stem end. Then transfer to this hand to snap the long beans in half. Short ones, you can leave intact.

    Now as far as cooking goes, I think of beans the way I do pasta. In other words, I don't ever put these into a pot of water without having at least a gallon of water at a boil, liberally seasoned with not one, but two tablespoons of salt. Now I probably could pack these beans into a smaller vessel, but all this water does two things. First, it'll bounce back quickly to a boil which will shorten the overall cooking time. And that is good because it'll help prevent these beans from turning brown. Why? Hold on.

1 Gallon Water
2 Tbs. Kosher Salt
1 Pound Fresh Green Beans,
    Trimmed & Halved

    [showing a large scale model of a green bean] When beans go into boiling water, something wonderful happens. Within a couple of moments, the green brightens, as oxygen, masking the chlorophyll pigment, is released into the water. [a plastic sleeve comes off the model reveling that it is quite green underneath] Aww, it's pretty.

    Now as the cooking continues, cell walls within the beans soften, which is also a good thing, because it means that it is going to be easier for us to get to good stuff like minerals and vitamins C and K. But there's also a downside here. You see, as the cooking continues, we also start to release acids, which, if they leak into the water, will attack the chlorophyll, turning the bean kind of brown-gray. Now by cooking in plenty of water, these acids can be diluted, which is good. But it would be better to not let them out in the first place. So check your beans often during cooking, and be ready to pull them. Don't let this happen to you. [the bean model turns from green to brown-gray]

Vitamin K
Vitamin C

The string was first bred out of the bean by
New York breeder Calvin Keeney in 1894.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Mister Bailey
                   Larry Tate

    As soon as the beans are tender to the tooth, like, al bean al dente, you want to drain them into a colander, and then move them into an ice water bath to shut down the cooking process. Once the beans are safely chilled, we can move on to the next casserole component.

    Unlike the classic dishes of most cultures, much of the American culinary canon was born of the Industrial Revolution. You see, by the turn of the last century, pantries were flooding with new possibilities: processed foods, boxes, tins, jars, bottles, and envelopes. All promised variety and a new word: convenience.



    Now, one of the companies that sprang up during this time was a collaboration between an ice box manufacturer, Abraham Anderson, and a fruit merchant named Joseph Campbell. Their Thomas Campbell Preserve Company* [sic] sold canned tomatoes, vegetable soups, minced meats, things like that.
    Now, in 1897, a chemist named Dr. John T. Dorrance joined the company and figured out a way to remove much of the water from soup. Which meant that a 32-ounce can of soup could basically go in a 10-ounce can. Such condensed soups became so popular that pretty soon, the Thomas [sic] Campbell Preserve Company just became "Campbell's Soup", okay.
    Like many manufacturers of the period, Campbell's got into a new thing, called "marketing".

MR. BAILEY: Hey, I'm not to sure about this yum-yum stuff. What else you got?
DARRIN: Well, there is one more, Mister Bailey. [laughs nervously] We publish a booklet called "Hints for Hostesses" [sic, Helps for the Hostess"], full of recipes for dishes built around your products. Products no one else makes.
MB: What kind of recipes?
LT: [derisively] Yeah, Darrin, what kind?
D: Well, how about something cheap, like, green beans.
MB: And?
LT: And?
D: And cream of mushroom soup.
MB: And?
LT: And?
D: And fried onions?
MB: That, is brilliant!
LT: It is brilliant!
MB: I'll have my secretary send over the papers.
D: [mouths, "Yeah!"]
ANNOUNCER: Brilliant and how! Americans just couldn't get enough of this new style of home cooking.

    Of all the dishes born in this age, none reached greater popularity than the green bean casserole which originally called for four cups of cooked, cut green beans, one can of cream of mushroom soup, some milk, some soy sauce, a dash of pepper, and canned French fried onions. Was it good? Sure it was, but it could be good eats. [AB hears knocking at the front door] What the devil ...

Back Door

AB: Oh, my. [opens the door] Hi, Chuck. You know, Huggy Bear just called and he wants his hat back.
C: [is dressed with a lot of bling in a 70's disco kind of outfit] Good one, Mr. B. I'm just tryin' to keep it real. And I brought you some more beans.
AB: Oh, okay. Yeah, these are a little smaller than the last batch.
C: I'm not into big beans anymore. I've invested in a "higher calling". It's been a "hard climb", but it's been very "rewarding". You might even say that "I stole a pot of gold from a giant." No, don't say that. [leaving] Peace, Mr. B.
AB: Yeah, peace.

    Where were we? Oh yeah, onions.

Dorcas Reilly was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame
for the original green bean casserole recipe she developed in 1955.

The Kitchen

    Step one, get yourself a gigantic mixing bowl. This one used to be a satellite dish. But hey, who needs all those channels? Now, into that goes one quarter of a cup of all-purpose flour, one teaspoon of salt—kosher, of course—and two tablespoons of Japanese or panko breadcrumbs, which are my personal favorite. Why? Well, come here. ¼ Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
2 Tbs. Panko Breadcrumbs

    [looking at a video magnifier] Here we have regular, store-bought bread crumbs, okay? Please note the shape and texture. Now here we have playground sand. Notice the similarity. The main difference is, is that this [bread crumbs], well, probably tastes better. Now, check out panko bread crumbs, okay? This jagged texture makes for a crunchy, yet light crust. "How do they do it?", you ask? I'll tell ‘ya.
    [enters wearing a lab coat, approaches his "devide"] Unlike most bread crumbs made on planet Earth, the makers of panko do not just crumble up dried pieces of bread. No no no no. They're very secretive about how they do it. But I was lucky enough to purchase some plans for my homemade panko machine on the Internet. What you need is, you get yourself a very very fine mesh metal screen, and you got your patented batter here [rolls water batter onto the mesh screen, it does a poor job], and you just roll that out, all over your screen like this. See, we've got plenty of coverage. There we go. That looks good. Now, all we have to do is apply the correct amount of current. [the camera pulls back to reveal more of the "device", he laughs like a mad scientist] Panko bread crumbs, here we come! [he throws a switch and laughs maniacally as the panko machine sprays sparks, smokes, explodes, and then stops, AB is seriously charred] And that is why you should always buy your Japanese-style bread crumbs. Yep.

Greek Oracles believed that eating beans would cloud their vision.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    With our breading safely assembled, we are ready to cut two medium onions, wafer-thin. Although I could do this with a knife if I felt like it, I'd rather use a mandoline. 2 Medium Onions, Thinly

THING: [produces a mandolin]
AB: The show's starting to run a little thick on gags, don't you think?

    I speak, of course, of the second most famous cutting device to ever come out of France, the first being... [camera pans to a small guillotine, where "Thing" "beheads" a carrot] Although full-size stand-model mandolines are convenient for tackling 50-pound sacks of potatoes, I find that a small, hand-held unit, like this ...

T: [now produces a mandoline]

... is far better for most jobs. But do yourself a favor, always use the hand guard. A lot of chefs throw these [hand guards] away, which is why they have nicknames, like "Stubs" and "Bleedy".
    Okay, here we cut. I'm just going to set that right into the bowl. No reason to get other devices involved. And we cut. There's one. [slices the other] Now just break all the rings up with your fingers, but try to keep your fingers out of the breading, because they're going to be pretty wet. And that is why we have such a big bowl, because we can toss.
    Fetch down a sheet pan, like this, lube it up with a little no-stick spray, and pile on the onions. You want to evenly distribute these so that they will cook evenly.

    Stash these in a 475-degree oven for 30 minutes, and make sure that you toss them thoroughly at least two times, during the cooking process. If you don't, you'll be sorry.

475° Degrees

During the Middle Ages physicians prescribed onions to
alleviate headaches, snakebites and hair loss.

    [at the refrigerator] While the onions cook, we turn our attention to a sauce. Although I'm not a huge fan of cream of mushroom soup, those old ad men were on to something, because mushrooms do work and play well with beans, especially when bathed in a fresh cream sauce.

    [at the cutting board] Well, it looks that we have 16 to 17 mushrooms here. It's about 12 ounces, which will be just right. And they seem to be pretty clean, so no washing necessary. Now, when it comes to slicing mushrooms, mandolines aren't very effective. But, no matter. We've got older technology available. We're not looking for slices here, just kind of chunks. So I'm just going to kind of roll them around on the board to get those chunks. Now if you happen to find one that has a really woody bottom to the stem, just slice that off, because it will not get better during cooking. 12 Ounces Mushrooms
    Place your favorite 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and add two tablespoons of unsalted butter. Once melted, add your mushroom chunks, along with one teaspoon of kosher salt, and half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid. It's going to take about four to five minutes. 2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
½ tsp. Freshly Ground Black
    [later] Now, time to add some more flavors to the party. Two cloves of garlic, minced, and a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg; freshly grated nutmeg, always. 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
¼ tsp. Freshly Grated Nutmeg
    Okay, time to bring the thickener to the party. Just sprinkle two tablespoons of all-purpose flour over the mixture. And I like to do this with a little hand sift to keep it evenly dispersed and lump-free. There. 2 Tbs. All-Purpose Flour

    Now, we're looking to the starch to swell and thicken the sauce. But first, we're going to use the relatively high heat of the pan to cook the raw cereal flavor out of the flour. That will take about a minute. Keep it moving the entire time. That looks good. And you'll notice the pan looks completely dry. That's the way it ought to be.

    Now, we begin with the liquids. A cup of chicken broth. Stir this constantly for 60 seconds. As the broth—which is, of course, mostly water—it's going to heat, hydrate the flour granules, and that will allow the starch to swell, which is what we want. 1 Cup Chicken Broth
    Next up, half-and-half, one cup. Don't worry about the heat curdling this. It's got plenty of fat inside of it. Besides, there are all these swollen starch molecules floating around now. It will keep the dairy proteins apart. 1 Cup Half & Half

    Lower the heat and maintain a low simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce reaches its full thickening potential. It'll take about six and a half minutes, depending on the heat and the exact amount of fat in your half-and-half.
    [at the oven] The onions are done. That's exactly what you want to see. We'll let these cool, and turn the oven down to 400.

Legend has it that Pythagoras was killed by his
enemies when he refused to escape through a bean field.

The Kitchen

GUESTS:  Giant
                    Giant's wife

    Alright, we have all the components necessary to construct our casserole. We will begin by adding about a quarter of the onions [to the mushroom cream]. Stir that in a little bit. And add all of the beans. Kind of fold them into the sauce. I don't want to stir real aggressively because they might break apart. I'd really like to keep them whole, so just kind of move around the sides of the pan, folding. At this point the sauce should be thick enough to where it's not going to splatter around on you. There, now kind of smooth out the top a bit, and bring on the rest of the onions. Just scatter them across, nice and evenly.

    [at the oven] Four hundred degrees, 15 minutes or until nice and bubbly.

400° Degrees

If you don't have a cast iron skillet you can use
any vessel that goes from stovetop to oven.

    Now for the best part. No patience necessary. This can go straight from the oven to the table. No rest needed.

C: [bursts through the door, panting and disheveled, carrying an axe and a covered cage with GOLDIE on the side]
AB: Chuck, are you okay?
C: [looking out of the door he has just closed] Yeah, fine. I'm just out for a leisurely climb ... STROLL! I wasn't climbing anything! Who said climbing?!?
Wait, wait, just calm down, calm down. Hey, look! I've got green bean casserole, just like your Mom used to make.
C: What! What! Oh, side dish, right. You're going to need a main course. Here!
AB: [peeking under the cover] Is that a chicken? [reaches in and pulls out a golden egg]
C: No, it's a hen. Look, take it. I'm going to be out of town for a few days. You can take all the beans you want. [hands AB the axe] You're gonna need this.
AB: Why?
C: Peace out.
AB: Wait, wait. Wait wait wait wait wait. No, I don't want ... [starts to run after Chuck and stops]

    Does something about this scenario seem oddly familiar?

GIANT: [off screen] Fee, fi, fo, fum ... [the booming voice knocks pots and pans off the walls]

    Yes, indeed it does.

G: ... I smell the ... green bean casserole! Where is it? I want ...
AB: [runs to the window and opens it] It's down here, Mr. Giant, if you want to try some.
G: [a giant hand appears] Lay some on me, little man.
AB: There you go.
J: Oww. Kind of hot.
AB: Hope you like it.
G: Hmm, smells good. [off camera, and tasting] Mmm. Better than the wife's. She gets hers from the back of a can.
WIFE: Honey, you get back here this instant.
G: Mmm, gotta go. [returns the cast iron pan to AB, empty] You see that man that stole my hen, you let me know.
AB: Yeah, I'll be sure to do that.
G: Yeah, alright.
AB: You have a nice day now.
W: Honey!
G: I'm coming, honey bun. Peace out, dude.

    Well, today didn't exactly work out the way that I thought it would. But you know as they say of fairy tales and also say of green beans, "all's well that ends good" ... eats, that is. Of course, I wish he'd left me a bite. Oh well.

*Alton probably meant the Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company, according to Wikipedia.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010