It’s hard not to have an inflated self-concept when your country dedicates a national holiday to doing your personal favorite things. So every year, when we all get together with our loved ones and set out inexhaustible spreads of fatty and carbo-loaded foods, then watch Detroit Lions football and possibly fall asleep in our chairs a little bit? T-Day stands for Ty Day.
It’s also Ty Day every time I sit down to write this week’s Gimme Schalter and remember 375 busy humans have voluntarily signed up to read whatever I feel like writing. It’s literally humbling, in that I feel very small as I wonder how I’m going make it worth all of your time. But it’s also “humbling” in the same sense some use “literally,” i.e., the exact opposite of what the word means.
So, in that spirit of overstuffed ego and belly, I offer you the recipe to my Actually Good Green Bean Casserole. Not that the standard version doesn’t have a certain appeal, but this is good. I end up making a couple of pans for both Thanksgiving AND Christmas, by request.
If you’re like me, you show up early at your mother-in-law’s house with all the ingredients and cook alongside everyone else who’s cooking. Start with fresh green beans, and cut enough fork-able pieces to mostly fill whatever pan you’re using:
Cut the beans first, because when you need them you NEED them
Get a pot of well-salted water boiling, and start chopping sweet onions. How many? Too many. More than you think you need. At least a couple of big ones, and you can keep the chop pretty rustic. Oil and butter and seasoning and get ‘em cooking at a decent heat level…the longer you have to do this, the lower you can go. You can speed it up with high heat, but only if you can pay really close attention to stirring (and pretty soon, you won’t be able to).
Water boiling now? Great, toss in all the beans and get a colander. This is just going to be a quick blanch, a few minutes once it comes back to boil. Fish one out and test every little bit. You still want plenty of snap left in them when you drain and chill:
Ice bath + cold water keeps 'em tasting whole and fresh at the finish
Be kind to yourself, the pre-washed and pre-sliced ones are absolutely fine. You don’t have time to wash and slice mushrooms anyway, you’re already taking up one burner with the onions and there aren’t really enough pans to go around. Chop up a stick of butter, mash 8-12 cloves of garlic, throw it all in there at medium-high heat and stir every little bit or so.
A little white wine and/or tarragon wouldn’t go amiss:
Don't mind the splatters. Also, don't use a saucepan?? It's getting hairy
It’s a good thing you forgot to put the milk you brought in the fridge, because it’s better warmer for what we’re about to do next. Use a slotted spoon to fish out the mushrooms and garlic and put it all in the pan with the beans:
What the heck? You forgot the garlic
OH GOD STIR THE ONIONS. You just landed yourself an after-dinner date with a Brillo pad, but you can’t think about that now.
Look in the remainder of the mushroom pot:
The garlic was RIGHT THERE, how did you forget
That’s a whole bunch of tasty mushroom deliciousness, and also a fair bit of the butter. Put this back on the heat, and alternate whisking in about 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour while you splash in a little more not-cold milk. Keep adding milk and stirring until it’s nice and creamy. WATCH IT CLOSE while you bring it to a boil, because boiling over a sauce like this can be a nightmare.
After reducing the heat and stirring, add some nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, and just a hit of cayenne or chili pepper. And way more salt than you think. Cream sauces can be devastatingly bland, so don’t hold back:
That skin means you got distracted by the onions, just stir it back in
Caramelized onions became really trendy a few years back–and then they became un-trendy, because they take a long time and are hard to get right. I dunno how many times I ordered caramelized onions on something in a restaurant, only to be served warm buttered onions.
The sugars have to CARAMELIZE! You want that sweet sticky crunch:
Couldn't get my shadow out of the shot without hip-checking an in-law
Now we’re really in the thick of it. Dredge the onions in some breadcrumbs (you can use Italian or panko; panko is pictured), and stir that sauce into the pan with the mushrooms and beans.
It’s getting dangerously close to being a casserole!
Or use canned green beans and a can of Campbell's, whatever
Top with the breadcrumbéd caramelized onions, and don’t sweat it if the breadcrumbs kind of get everywhere. You’re going to add cheese to make—THE CHEESE! Shit shit shit.
Or use a can of French's Dehydrated Funyuns, I guess
Ask your partner to grate up a bunch of Parmesano-Reggiano (ideally along with a soft cheese or two like the Gruyere and Fontina in the picture). Layer on the now-grated cheese, along with more breadcrumbs, to make a top:
The deliciousness becomes clearer even as the pics become more frantic
Your mother-in-law has spent two hours asking you “how long will it have to cook, and at what temperature,” and you have spent two hours saying “from whenever I’m done until the sauce is bubbling and the top is crispy’, and ‘whatever temperature the oven is already at’.” now’s your chance to make it happen. Just slip it in next to whatever else is in the oven and keep an eye on it.
Wait, that's not even the same pan! What did you DO
Gailey is one of my favorite authors, proprietor of the amazing Stone Soup newsletter, editor of an essay anthology of which I was proud to be a part, and a super-rad person I consider a friend.
Writing for SFWA–an organization I’d love to join some day–Gailey unpacks what trauma is, what it means for fictional characters, and how it can (and arguably should!) be respected, on a craft level, to make more meaningful stories with more satisfying endings.
A couple generations of children who were raised to believe a trip to Disney was the ultimate vacation–the ultimate kid-fun experience, as well as a trump-card status symbol–has resulted in a couple generations of grownups who never stopped believing in the magic of the Magic Kingdom.
Defunctland is a wonderful YouTube channel dedicated to rigorous (and entertaining) explorations on everything on the other side of the forced-perspective veneer: Attractions and rides that weren’t popular or don’t exist anymore, prominent failures by the Disney company, Disney amusement park management, and amusement parks in general.
Disney tries to make all their products and experiences appear to be effortless, magical, as if springing perfectly and wholly from nowhere. Anyone who regularly attends their parks knows they’re run by humans, and mistakes are inevitable. By exposing and chronicling the mistakes, Perjurer actually celebrates the creative processes and executive decisions that make all the magic possible.
This latest episode is a standout, even by Perjurer’s usual high standard: Deeply researched, expertly edited, often witty, and extremely relatable.
When my high-school/college band broke up, digital modeling amps were just becoming a thing: Amps that could create guitar sounds and tones that were otherwise achievable only by chaining thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment together and cranking it all to 11.
This WILD video (which is not embeddable here) shows Chun–a musician, vocaloid producer and lead guitarist of EV133–programming phrases into a stomp box containing the voice of iconic vocaloid Hatsune Miku. He uses a mobile app played through his guitar pickup, and then plays the phrases out through his guitar.
…and he captioned it with how wild technology was in 2015! I am truly #old.
This is the nerdiest possible deep dive into the nerdiest possible topic: A rare CD-ROM of a dating service that existed from 1989-1990 for the Japanese version of what Americans call the "Turbo-Grafx 16.”
There are source-code reveals, technical explanations, and some incredible pics. Many act as though dating apps are some dystopian endgame of de-humanizing humanity–but as Covell notes, “computer dating” has existed in some form or another for 50 years.
I’d never heard of Covell before stumbling over this article on Twitter–but I love his site, too. Covell site is very, very old-school, too, in the best possible way.
I am not going to “win” #NaNoWriMo this year. But I had a great writing session today, and am most of the way through A&A’s second chapter.
I’ve gotten several readers’ feedback on the first chapter, and I am already realizing I’ve got to make some tough decisions about the right voice and perspective for this story. My characters and world are doing what I want them to do, but I’ve got to do a better job of bringing readers into it.