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A GREAT Casserole....?

Whenever I see the word casserole, I cringe. Then I think, gee, most other types of delicious recipes are nothing more than combinations of foods, the same as casseroles. So, why does the word casserole horrify people so much? OTOH, I don't think I've ever had one that was very good.

Maybe the type of cook that makes casseroles isn't.....well, a very good cook, generally speaking? Or maybe the typically-used casserole ingredients aren't very good?

Challenge: How can GREAT ingredients be BEAUTIFULLY combined to make a DELICIOUS casserole?

After all, the concept is a pretty good one, isn't it?

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  1. I don't have a problem with casseroles in theory - I mean, lasagne al forno, enchiladas, potato gratin and baked mac and cheese are all types of casseroles, and they're some of my favorite foods! I think the problems come in when people throw foods that I don't care for in any form (i.e. canned soups, canned vegetables, overcooked meats, processed cheeses) into a pan and expect the resulting mess to somehow taste good. Not going to happen.

    I also think that a lot of casseroles (especially vegetable based ones) start with raw ingredients when they shouldn't. Vegetables give off a ton of water, and you're never going to get an appetizing, caramelized result when your casserole just steams in it's own juices. I have a recipe from Epicurious for a butternut squash, leek and goat cheese casserole that is DIVINE - the vegetables are roasted/sauteed first, then layered with cheese and cream and baked with a nut topping. This recipe would be an utter failure if made with raw vegetables.

    3 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      Yum, that butternut recipe sounds amazing....googling.....

      1. re: biondanonima

        Found it! Goes into the holiday possibilities file - thanks!

        1. re: sandylc

          I made it for Thanksgiving one year and it was a big hit - especially because I had an unannounced vegetarian show up and there was literally not ONE other savory vegetarian dish prepared (I use bacon grease for cooking, plus chicken stock). He happily made a meal of it, though!

      2. I've never understood the aversion to casseroles. It refers to the deep dish in which you would bake something so what's wrong with that? Aren't baked Macaroni and Cheese and Lasagna casseroles? Isn't a gratin of potatoes with ham a casserole? Obviously, I could go on and on so....I think a casserole is a pretty good concept.

        1. I think the generic name "casserole" is attached to a lot of dishes prepared with "cream of x" soup etc. And other dishes that can be really delicious are called other names (e.g. cassoulet moussaka) though they are types of casseroles.

          4 Replies
          1. re: drongo

            I consider shepherd's or cottage pie a casserole and those are great. Enchiladas are a great casserole.

            I suspect what has ruined the name casserole is that infamous green bean casserole. One taste of that can get you to swear off casseroles.

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              Shepherd's pie sounds really good right now.

              1. re: Hank Hanover

                Yet when green bean casserole is made from scratch with fresh green beans, shallots, mushrooms, and bechamel, it is amazing.

                Bad ingredients make bad food, I guess.

                1. re: sandylc

                  Made with fresh (or whole frozen) green beans it is an entirely different beast. The difference was quite obvious on Thanksgiving when I had the two side by side. One was green beans in a sauce, the other a familiar nearly homogeneous dish, more like the stuffing. I actually preferred the 'traditional'.

                  To get the right consistency, I'd use frozen julienne beans, and cook them soft. Some recipes try to be more up-scale by using cream, but the bechamel makes more sense. But a canned creamed soup is basically the same thing, a starch thickened sauce. And is there a real substitute for French's onions?

            2. Have you considered the original casserole, the cassoulet? This is the granny of all casseroles and uses only the finest ingredients such as cured meats and duck confit. Then in this country there is the Saturday night staple baked bean casserole in New England and other regions have historic dishes that fit the definition of casserole.

              1 Reply
              1. I have a recipe for a casserole that's basically sausage meat combined with white beans, onions and fresh sage and then topped with fresh breadcrumbs and baked. It's delicious.

                Also, think of the following: chilaquiles, strata, panade, lasagna. All couled be construed as a casserole.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Savour

                  I would love the recipe for the sausage meat casserole.

                  1. I think there may be some snobbery involved when casserole is mentioned.
                    A Lancashire Hot Pot ,is, I think a great dish but perhaps under appreciated because it's British.

                    As Rick Stein said were this France, hotpot would be a nationally hailed dish. It even gets a mention in Larousse Gastronomic.

                    1. Wow, was I ever thinking wrongly when I wrote this OP. I was considering the tuna-noodles, the Cream-ofs, and the tater tots thingies.

                      There really is a wealth of great casseroles out there, as has already been pointed out well by everyone posting here. Some of these ideas will be great as the weather gets chilly.

                      1. The great thing about a casseroles is that it is often made in advance, and the portion yield is often high. Some casseroles are made from scratch others from leftovers. I make an olive-tomato Mac and cheese which I have been told is very good. Casseroles often come from heirloom recipes and I think that is why they are often so good. Every family has a little casserole treasure somewhere.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          That sounds delicious! Care to share the recipe?

                          1. re: cosmogrrl

                            Yes will pull it out and post. Basically it is a bechamel, fortified with some dijon, and usual ingredients for Mac and Cheese but pimento olives are added. I will post soon.

                        2. It might not sounds really good from the description, but Mimi Sheraton's "The German Cookbook" has a recipe for Westphalian Blind Hen that has become one of our go to meals. It has:

                          white beans (boiled with bacon)
                          string beans

                          You essentially boil all the ingredients together until they soften and then put some home made breadcrumbs on top and finish in the oven.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: skier

                            I have never seen this kind of combination of beans, fruits and vegetables. I thought maybe you made a mistake.... no. I found this same recipe on the web.


                            Is it the consistency of oatmeal? I would think it would be pretty thick.