SFoodie's series asking some of our favorite San Francisco food people about the dish they just can't celebrate Thanksgiving without.
Since I grew up Asian in St. Louis, my Thanksgivings always skewed a little from the mainstream. I never realized that sticky glutinous rice wasn't part of everyone's festive meal. Nappa cabbage with dried shrimp or egg-drop soup probably didn't show up on most family menus, but they did on mine. Sure we had turkey (the requisite Butterball), Stove Top stuffing, mashed potatoes from a box, and canned cranberry sauce (complete with indentations molded into the form), and pumpkin pie from the supermarket bakery (it was the Midwest). But it was Asian food that really defined Thanksgiving dinner.
But then a funny thing happened: I spent a year abroad in high school and went to a Thanksgiving potluck for American expats. It was there, in the Netherlands, that I first experienced candied yams with marshmallows, Jiffy cornbread (someone shipped it over special), and what would soon become my all-time Thanksgiving favorite: green bean casserole.
Canned green beans (French-cut), a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, and of course, the topping of fried onions from the canister (I later found out from a friend who worked in a grocery store that those canisters never ever moved during the rest of the year) all blended together into something utterly sublime to my teenage tongue. I was in love with a mushy side dish made up of processed foods.
I no longer make the kind of green bean casserole that requires a can opener, but it still appears on my menu, modified of course: fresh green beans, blanched and sautéed with cremini mushrooms, covered with a roux-thickened cream sauce, topped with pan-fried shallots. But I know I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for my first mushy green bean casserole, even if there isn't room for it on my table.
Irvin Lin is an award-winning baker, designer, storyteller, and recipe developer. His blog, Eat the Love, has been featured in Bon Appetit's Daily Blogs Linkery, Food News Journal, and Yum Food & Fun magazine. He lives mere blocks from the 18th Street gourmet ghetto with his partner, AJ.
Other Thanksgiving essentials in this series:
-Jonathan Kauffman's Brussels sprouts with prosciutto
-Jun Belen's stuffing balls
-John Birdsall's braised turkey legs with polenta
-Marcia Gagliardi's giblet gravy