- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The casserole is not only the name of the dish, but also the name of the container in which it is cooked. When you combine a variety of foods, whether they are all vegetables or in combination with meats, and heat them in a broth or stock, you have actually created a casserole.
Casseroles vary from the typical cream sauce-based creations to quiches, to savory pies, to Shepherd’s pie and even breakfast and dessert casseroles.
Casseroles vs. savory pies
Both dishes contain a mixture of meat and vegetables. The difference between casseroles and savory pies is pies usually have a crust on both top and bottom; casseroles do not.
That brings us to Shepherd’s Pie, which really isn’t a pie at all and rarely cooked with a crust. It is primarily considered a casserole. Casseroles didn’t really become popular until condensed canned soups became available. Cheap and filling, they were an American staple during the Depression, and were widely popular in the 1950s.
Stew or casserole?
Years ago, people used to hang a pan over an open fireplace and at the beginning of the week, they would add some meat bones to it, some water, vegetables from the garden, more water…and it would cook slowly over three or four days, “stewing” until it was done. But when it came to casseroles, the meat and veggie mixture was placed in a vessel or “casserole,” cooked in the oven and then eaten the same day.
Another type of casserole involves browning the meat first, usually pork chops or even sausage, and then adding a combination of potatoes, mushrooms, onions and a creamed sauce over them and baking it in the oven. I took it one step further and decided to make individual portions in an Escoffier dish. My “Baked Pork Chops with Potatoes, Mushrooms and Dill” can be made up the night before and then refrigerated until ready to bake the next day.
Baked Pork Chops
with Potatoes, Mushrooms and Dill
2 (5-6 ounces) boneless pork chops
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced potatoes (new potatoes are great; leave the skins on)
1 cups sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add olive oil to skillet and brown pork chops, seasoning with salt and pepper, on both sides. Place pork chops in two Escoffier dishes (individual baking dishes), about 4 in. x 7 in. Place sliced mushrooms and potatoes over chops. Combine soup, sour cream, water and dill; mix well. Pour mixture over chops, potatoes and mushrooms. Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until pork chops are tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top; return to oven just enough to melt the cheese. Makes 2 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 Tbsp. 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 1-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
Corn Casserole with Tomatoes and Bacon
6 slices bacon, cut in halves crosswise
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped medium green bell pepper
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh or frozen whole kernel corn
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sugar
Arrange half of the bacon in the bottom of a shallow 2-qt. casserole. Top with half of the breadcrumbs. Add to casserole in layers: green bell pepper, tomatoes and corn, which have been seasoned with the salt, pepper and sugar. Top corn casserole with remaining breadcrumbs and bacon. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour, or until topping is lightly browned. Makes 6 servings.
Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Onions
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 pork chops (1-inch thick)
Dried thyme leaves
2 medium onions, sliced thin
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
4 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle both sides of chops with sage, thyme, salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add chops and brown both sides. Remove from pan and place in 13 x 9 x inch baking dish.
Reduce heat to medium; and in the same pan, add onions and garlic cloves. Add a little more oil, if needed. Cover and sauté slowly, until dark brown, being very careful not to burn (if garlic caramelizes before onions, remove from pan-a little water might need to be added while cooking to prevent burning). Add about 1/4 tsp. each of sage and thyme and the sliced sweet potatoes; combine well. Place potato mixture on top of chops. Deglaze the skillet with about 1/4-cup water or white wine; pour over casserole. Sprinkle with additional olive oil, about 1 tablespoon. Cover casserole. Bake in pre-heated 400-degree oven for 35 minutes or until potatoes are nearly tender. Remove lid and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.