Reimagining the Casserole: Baked Mashed Potatoes with White Beans and Greens
Call me a fifties housewife, but I’ve recently begun a love affair with casseroles. There’s just something about mixing vegetables, starches, proteins, and the inevitable cheese into a mélange of baked, steaming deliciousness with a crunchy topping. What’s not to love?
Well, plenty. Casseroles get a bad rap in healthy-eating circles, and rightly so. Often, they consist of processed, excessively salty soups (ick!), cheese-food products (bleah!), mushy canned vegetables (don’t get me started!) and highly refined grains or starches. Eating these casseroles isn’t just bad for your health but often isn’t a very pleasant experience for your taste buds, either. At least, I don’t find it to be so.
But despite these misgivings, lasagna and dressed-up mac ‘n’ cheese led me down the seductive road of the casserole. And there’s just something about mixing lots of ingredients together, baking them, and ending up with a meal that delivers a rich abundance of flavors in every bite. Making a great casserole requires a larger investment of time at the outset than opening a few cans, but the health and flavor results are worth it, and you’ll have a meal that can serve a crowd, yourself and your family for a few lunches, or be stowed in the freezer for a convenient meal sometime in the future. This particular recipe combines the creamy comfort of mashed potatoes, the savory garlic-kissed bite of sautéed greens, assertive parmesan cheese, and the crunch of a bread crumb topping. Nutritionally, this recipe will provide you with plenty of protein and fiber, vitamins C and K, beta carotene, potassium, and a host of antioxidants.
The inspiration for this dish is Mark Bittman’s Green Mashed Potatoes recipe. I added white beans for protein and fiber to make this a one dish meal, and I thought the greens would taste better if they were sautéed with garlic rather than simply boiled. Finally, I added parmesan, butter, and mustard to punch up the flavors a bit.
If you use gluten-free breadcrumbs (as I did), this is a gluten-free recipe. Vegans can substitute a combination of nutritional yeast and finely ground nuts for the parmesan and a good margarine or more olive oil for the butter. You can use any sturdy greens you like–I used kale, of course, but collards, dandelion greens, or mustard greens would all work wonderfully.
Although potatoes often acquire a disagreeable texture when frozen, with mashed potatoes this is not an issue; this recipe can certainly be frozen before baking (or you can freeze the leftovers, as I plan to.)
Baked Mashed Potatoes with White Beans and Greens
For the potato and bean mash:
1 lb. yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Golds, quartered
1.5 cups cooked white beans (preferably cannellini)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the greens:
1 large bunch or two smaller bunches hearty greens, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces, water still clinging to leaves
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
For the topping:
1 cup breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1. Boil the potatoes in plenty of boiling, salted water until fork-tender. Reserving cooking water, drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Preheat the oven to 400.
3. Add beans to potato mixture. Mix well. With a potato masher, mash until potatoes are coarsely mashed.
4. Add parmesan, butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper to potato and bean mixture. Mix well.
5. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add greens, a pinch of salt, and stir with garlic and olive oil. Cook until greens are wilted and tender but still bright green. Add the greens and any liquid in the pan to potato and bean mixture and stir well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings if necessary. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish or Dutch oven.
6. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix well. Spread evenly over the potato and bean mixture. Bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.