Syncretic Green Bean Casserole
This recipe drew ideas from four or five different recipes we found online. The ricotta was a substitution for cottage cheese, mostly because I don't much like cottage cheese and would've had trouble using the rest of the tub, whereas I luhhhhrv ricotta.
Makes about 6 servings, depending on how hungry you are and whether it's your main course.
A bunch of the ingredients require preparation, but if you're reasonably coordinated you can work on several of them at once. The below is a description, as best I can manage, of what we actually made:
four strips of bacon, cut into squares (I use kitchen shears to snip them directly into the pan), and crisped (I cook the bacon in a pan on medium heat, and every few minutes tilt the pan and spoon out the fat, which I save for cooking other stuff like grilled-cheese sandwiches)
one medium-to-large yellow onion, diced into even pieces (if you cut it in half along the axis, then cut the halves with radial cuts that don't quite get through the root end, then make three even cuts from the top down to the root, then cut out the root to release the last few pieces, you get reasonably even results) and caramelized (cook with a little oil -- such as a bit of bacon grease! -- over low heat, tossing in a bit of water any time you start seeing burned bits; once they become lightly brown and jellyish, toss in a couple teaspoons of brown sugar and a splash of liquid to help it dissolve and coat the onions, either water, or some sort of juice or wine or vinegar; I just used water in this case; saute for a few minutes longer to evaporate the excess liquid)
a couple handfuls of pecans (maybe 6 ounces?), toasted (I toast nuts by making a foil packet -- lay them flat on the foil then fold the long way such that they're covered, then fold the other edges in just far enough to make sure nothing falls out -- and tossing it in a 350F toaster-oven for ~10 minutes), allowed to cool, and then chopped (lay them on a large cutting board, and then, holding a large chef's knife with both hands -- one on the grip, one pinching near the end of the blade -- make rolling cuts across the nuts; you can get a similar effect by putting the cooled nuts in a plastic bag and crushing them)
about 1 pound of green beans, washed, snapped (or whatever the term is for removing the inedible stem end), cut into ~2 inch lengths, and boiled for about five minutes (tender enough to not seem raw, but still retaining a bit of crispness)
a 2oz jar of diced pimientos
1 4oz log of garlic-herb chevre, 1/2 cup of ricotta, and 1/2 cup of milk, mixed thoroughly with a fork
12 sesame Breton crackers (or any other mild to mildly-nutty tasting cracker), crushed to large crumbs, mixed with about a cup of finely grated piave cheese (I use a Zyliss rotary grater), and ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375F.
Gently toss the first five ingredients in a 2-quart casserole dish (we actually used the casserole dishes I have, which are a 1-quart and a 1.5-quart), dump in the cheese goo and fold that through (a couple of spoons works well), sprinkle over the cracker/cheese mixture to cover.
Bake 20 minutes, then switch to broil for 2-3 minutes to brown the top (keep an eye on it, at this point). Remove from oven, cover, and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Devour.
And now, the things I'd do differently next time:
First and foremost, it needed more liquid. I'd be fine with using the same cheese goo, but just using twice as much. Xta suggested adding in some other kind of shredded cheese, perhaps mozzarella because it's reasonably neutral, and so wouldn't throw off the other flavors, which were nicely balanced. I think regardless, I'd increase the amount of milk by another 1/4 or 1/2 cup, to make the cheese goo more fluid.
I'm not sure whether the increased liquid by itself would help with this issue, but little bits of grated hard cheese tend to just kinda crisp up, rather than melting together. I think I might prefer something that would actually melt, maybe fontina or asiago fresco.
I think adding the black pepper to the crumb mixture doesn't serve much purpose. It came out right, but I think just adding it at the table would be fine. (It didn't need any salt; between the cheese and the cracker crumbs, it had just the right amount.)
I wouldn't've minded more pimentos; I got the smallest jar I could find, but I think the 4oz jar would've been fine.