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My definition of a casserole is a combination of foods that are cooked together slowly in an oven in the dish/pot that will be used for serving. As a cooking method, it was derived from the ancient practice of slowly stewing meat in earthenware containers.
Casseroles can be both savory and sweet. A typical casserole pan is usually a rounded glass pan that comes in many different sizes, with or without lids. They can also be made of stainless steel. I favor the glass ones because the food won’t stick if the container is sprayed with a non-stick spray. With glass, you can see the ingredients cooking and hopefully not sticking on the bottom.
Use up those leftovers
Casseroles are a good way to use up those dreaded leftovers. First, choose a base, like potatoes, pasta or rice. Then, add some meat or vegetables, and then add soup, sauce or some other liquid. For example, a base of rice can be paired with broccoli and cheese soup.
Bases consist of pastas (spaghetti, macaroni), potatoes and grains (white or brown rice). Sauces, soups or liquids may include any type of creamed soup (cream of mushroom, asparagus, celery, etc.), regular soup, cheese soup, a dip mix, white sauces, water and/or broth.
Seasonings such as garlic and onions, spices, bacon bits, cheeses or sour cream can add a little extra flavor.
Casseroles are hard to mess up and will take care of any leftovers before they go bad. You can also freeze them for future meals.
Shepherd’s Pie is made different all over the world. It is an easy dish for the rushed nights, and can even be made ahead of time and frozen.
3 green peppers, quartered and cleaned
4-cups leftover or instant mashed potatoes
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1-1/2 lb. bulk sausage
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown bulk sausage until well cooked. Blanch green peppers. In a two-quart baking dish, line the sides with the blanched green peppers. Combine the cooked sausage, potatoes, corn and sour cream; salt and pepper. Turn the mixture into the green pepper crust and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Makes 4 servings.
Squash and Sausage Casserole
2 medium-sized acorn squashes
1 medium onion
2 small apples
1 lb. link sausage
1 tsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 Tbsps. maple-flavored pancake syrup
Dried or fresh sage, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a small knife to puncture squashes all over (so they will not explode in the microwave). Cook in microwave on high for about 7 minutes; turn over squashes, cook an additional 7 minutes.
Slice onion into one-inch cubes. Core and halve apples, cut into 1/4-inch slices. Slice sausage into half-rounds. Cook at medium-high until well browned; remove and drain sausage. Drain fat from pan. In the same pan, heat butter and olive oil. Add apples and onions and sauté until softened, just beginning to brown.
When squashes are done, let them cool. Cut open, scoop out seeds; then scoop out pulp in large pieces.
In casserole dish, mix together squash, apples, onion, sausage, syrup, hot sauce and sage. Top with Parmesan cheese and cook uncovered until cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Makes 4 servings
Oysters Rockefeller Casserole
If you enjoy Oysters Rockefeller, you will enjoy this variation.
1 qt. raw oysters
1 stick (4 oz.) butter
1 finely chopped rib celery
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 tsp. anise seed
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
Salt, fresh ground pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a large casserole dish. Drain the oysters and arrange in a single layer in the bottom of the dish. Melt the butter and sauté the celery and onions until they begin to soften. Add parsley, spinach, anise seed, Worcestershire Sauce, soft breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and cayenne; spread mixture over the oysters.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove; and, if needed, pour off any excess water from the oysters. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and a very thin layer of bread or cracker crumbs. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until slightly browned on top. Makes 4-6 servings.
Cordon Bleu Casserole
This is a great way to use up leftover cooked turkey or chicken and ham.
4 cups cooked turkey or chicken breast meat, cubed
3 cups cooked ham, cubed
12 oz. frozen vegetables (Italian blend or equiv.)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup flour
2 cups skim milk
1-1/2 tsp. dill weed
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbsps. margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine turkey/chicken, ham, vegetables and 3/4 cup of cheese; set aside.
In a saucepan, sauté onion in broth until tender. Add flour to form a paste. Gradually add skim milk, stirring constantly. Simmer until thickened, about one minute. Add the mustard, nutmeg and one teaspoon of dill weed; mix well. Remove from heat and pour over the meat mixture, mixing well. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
In a small bowl, toss breadcrumbs, melted butter and the remaining dill weed. Stir in remaining cheese and mix well. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Makes 6-8 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.