Can we talk about casseroles for a minute? Somehow they've gotten a bad reputation. Lots of people think of the casserole as old-fashioned, an unhealthy, inelegant symbol of 1950s cooking that doesn't really deserve much love or attention in our enlightened 21st century kitchens. Sure, there are versions that were popular when I was a kid that I'd be horrified to ever see again (canned salmon and tomato soup is not a combination I particularly pine for), but those are the ones that mostly give casseroles a bad name.
Technically, I guess a casserole is anything cooked in a casserole dish. But more broadly speaking, it's just stuff in a pan, topped (most often with something cheesy and something crunchy), and baked until bubbly and brown. Yes, that "stuff" can be a Frankensteinian collection of canned and processed foods, but it doesn't have to be (and it shouldn't). In fact, casseroles are a great asset to any cook who keeps their fridge stocked with cooked vegetables, grains, beans, and meats; they're the perfect place to stash leftovers and repurpose them into something truly appealing.
And the best part is that they don't require an exact recipe (I know I say that about a lot of things, but it's especially true here). Once you get a sense of the process, you can make a casserole out of pretty much anything that you have on hand in your fridge and pantry. I've sketched that process out in the "non-recipe" below; it's broken down into six basic steps (each with little illustrations for good measure) that get you from start to melty, crunchy finish, with endless ingredient and flavoring possibilities along the way.
Casseroles are a year-round thing, but they're particularly comforting when it's cold. Check it out if you're in the mood. (Whether or not you add the canned salmon is entirely up to you.)
It can be liberating to cook without a recipe, though depending on your skill in the kitchen and how frequently you’re cooking at home, the turnout can be hit or miss. Here’s a pretty foolproof no-recipe option that allows you to use up leftovers and is sure to please more people than not. Who doesn’t like a one-pot dish covered in bubbly browned cheese and breadcrumbs?
Talk To Me, Goose!
Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.