Maybe Sandra Lee Has a Point
It was one of those weekends where I somehow managed to spend more money in two and a half days than I had all week. Sunday night must be a make-at-home meal.
Of course I refused to leave the apartment for additional ingredients so I performed a mental scan of the kitchen. Two things popped out: broccoli and cheddar cheese. I really didn’t feel like messing with a broccoli and cheese soup. Not that it’d be particularly hard, but I had a feeling I would be scouring the internet for recipes and then melding 20 different variations into one fat crock of soup that would take me two hours to make.
Instead, I decided to chop up a bunch of random vegetables, some summer veggies that were a day away from the trash and some winter veggies that could hold up in the fridge for another week. I’m not sure what defines a casserole.
Actually, can something be a casserole without the help of a Campbell’s soup product?
Summer Meets Winter Vegetable Casserole
Using a slicer, I cut two different types of potatoes (red and fingerling) into thin rounds. On top of that I layered broccoli, leaving the longs stems intact, red pepper and zucchini. I dotted the layers with Greek yogurt, ricotta and cheddar cheese, saving a majority of the cheddar for the top.
This was in a 375ish over for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Man I wish I boiled the potatoes ahead of time. And man did I wish I had triple the amount of cheddar.
Now, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but this was missing a bit of creaminess. Maybe I should have made a roux. Or, fine, I’ll just say it, maybe it could have used some cream of mushroom soup.
But the next day, all it needed was a topping of 2 scrambled eggs.
No one needs cream of _____ soup! That’s why the goodness of sour cream is out there.
I did a whole project on casseroles last month – and yeah, if you don’t use canned soup they’re either a huge pain, or they end up being a little flavorless. You have to pre-cook all the ingredients (I had the same problem you had with the potatoes, although in my case it was beans), which dirties a ton of pans. And you either have to load it up with cheese to help with the creaminess, or make your own Béchamel sauce. So much work! The one binder I had luck with was ricotta cheese – it didn’t add a ton of flavor, but it definitely helped with the creaminess.
No wonder casseroles didn’t become a popular American staple until the mass-production of canned soup!
you did a whole project?!?! i’d love to learn more about your casserole findings. (and i hope i’m not taking this too literally)
Of course! So, I made four casseroles – tex mex (http://bit.ly/4zDDkR), tuna noodle (http://bit.ly/Iea6B), brown rice with mushroom and ricotta (http://bit.ly/2doFSO), and dairy free polenta lasagna (http://bit.ly/1Gn3cq). In general, my “findings” were:
1. They are a lot of work if you don’t want to use canned soup, and will dirty many pots.
2. If you’re going to use Bechamel as a binder, make sure to add a lot of cheese.
3. Pre-cook all your ingredients, no matter what the recipe says.
4. Use lots of seasoning – for some reason, they have a tendency towards blandness.
5. Canned tuna really only belongs in tuna salad (trust me).
I may have liked them more if I hadn’t tried to keep them healthy, but I was taking the leftovers for lunch every day, so I couldn’t make anything too decadent (like, say a three cheese lasagna. Yum).
You should try another one and see if you can make improvements. I bet a pumpkin and sage lasagna would be lovely for fall.
The campbells soup also imparts quite a bit of sodium to bring out the flavor of your ingredient hodge-podge. If you can manage to procure a ladies club church cookbook from anywhere in the midwest, you’ll be entertained with more funky casserole recipes than you could have ever imagined. The first *chicken enchiladas* that I ever had were in casserole form at a church potluck. They were mos def made with cream of chicken soup with a few chopped Old El Paso canned green chilis for *spice.*