Not Your Grandmother’s Casserole

Casserole Casseroles are a delicious but not always the most exciting dish. Long-loved by busy American moms and dads hoping to get a satisfying dinner to their children without a ton of prep or cleaning, the casserole has been...

Casserole
Casserole

Casseroles are a delicious but not always the most exciting dish. Long-loved by busy American moms and dads hoping to get a satisfying dinner to their children without a ton of prep or cleaning, the casserole has been a weeknight staple and a comfort food for many.However, it doesn?t have to be boring. With a bit of imagination, this classic dish is easy to update into a flavorful, filling entree you?ll love to prepare.

The word ?casserole? comes from French, but has been adopted in many English-speaking countries to describe a stew that?s baked in a covered dish instead of heated on the stovetop. In the U.S., in particular, casseroles are thicker than stews, and often contain pasta as the filling base. Often, they are topped with delicious, crispy cheese gratings, or contain layers of molten cheese.

Green bean casseroles and cheesy lasagnas are two kinds that always hit the spot but won?t win any awards for innovation or intrigue. While those will probably always have their spot on the dining room table, let?s explore some ways that you can make casserole night a bit more exotic.

Themed Casseroles

When preparing for kids especially, give your casserole a bit of magic by making it a themed dish using the ingredients featured in your family?s favorite movie or television show. For example, in the?Harry Potter? books and movies, Hogwarts students eat beef casserole. To make a beef casserole, the BBC recommends stewing chunks of beef with celery, carrot and Worcestershire sauce for a few hours.

Or, are you a fan of fast-draw Westerns rather than fantasy? Making a ?spaghetti Western? casserole is fun and easy. Simply layer a tomato-based browned ground beef sauce with cooked spaghetti and cheese in a casserole dish and bake. Southwest-inspired seasonings like jalapeno peppers and oregano can make the flavor more ?Western? than plain-old spaghetti, if you prefer.

Breakfast Casseroles

Or, take the casserole out of the realm of dinner or lunch and create a satisfying breakfast casserole perfect for your next holiday brunch. Many of the same ingredients that you might fry up into an omelet will create a scrumptious egg-based breakfast meal. Combine eggs, milk, grated cheddar cheese and onions with browned sausage and bacon bits in a deep baking dish and then bake it until cooked through (usually over an hour).

Not a fan of bacon and sausage? Breakfast casseroles are also excellent when they include hearty vegetables like zucchini or eggplant instead of meat. Pair zucchini with feta cheese and dill in the casserole for a Turkish-inspired breakfast treat or enjoy eggplant with sliced mushrooms, mozzarella and Italian seasonings for a healthy, pasta-free breakfast lasagna.

Potato and zucchini casserole
Potato and zucchini casserole

Unusual twists

Don?t be afraid to mix up the flavors you incorporate in your casseroles. Try combining chicken slow-cooked in Thai-style coconut curry in layers with bamboo shoots, baby corn and thin slices of cooked potato. Or, convert your favorite stir-fry ingredients into a rice-based casserole with Chinese flavors like soy sauce, five-spice powder or Szechwan pepper.