FM spoke to Clifford A. Wright, cookbook author, (Bake until Bubbly, The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008, $22.95). Wright is a blogger, culinary instructor and lecturer, and this is one of his favorite topics…
The idea began when I was writing The Real Stew Cookbook and after The Mediterranean Feast Cookbook. Casseroles are a close cousin to both and therefore were a natural topic to cover. Most casserole-type recipes are native to North America or Europe.
An exploration into classic European dishes can range from French cassoulet to Italian lasagna. And a great treasure trove of recipes comes out of American and American immigrant cooking from the 1880s to today.
Frankly, in the 1940s, casseroles got a bad rap for being a “dumping ground” for leftovers. My thought is that there are a lot of good dishes called casseroles that just need to be cleaned up a bit. Do away with high sodium soup mix and utilize top quality ingredients, leftover or not. Do that or pull the plug on the recipe!
My inspiration is what I call culture-driven rather than ingredient-driven.
In my opinion, a lot of people hook onto an ingredient and build from there. My approach is to understand the culture. All cooking comes out of a tradition and the further away you get from a tradition the more soul-less the food becomes.
Technical training does not guarantee great taste. A chef needs to be culture driven, to know where the food comes from and the story behind it.
With cooking, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. The talent, inspiration, artistry, needs to be informed.
I would say that most recipes can easily be doubled, even tripled as long as you look at one thing — the liquid in the main recipe. For example, for fish dishes, keep in mind the fish itself will release juices, so a chef needs to know techinically how that will affect the end product.
For something simple, yet completely indulgent, try the Bacon Noodle Bake on page 258.
For something more healthful, consider the Baked Swiss Chard and Spinach with Chickpeas and Feta, p. 375, and for something easy yet incredibly beautiful, make the Salmon Avocado Casserole, on page 186, this one is easy to quadruple!
Need even more inspiration? Check out these cookbooks for some delicious ideas.
The Best Casserole Book Ever, With More Than 500 Recipes, by Beatrice Ojakangas, Chronicle Books, 2008, $24.95
Crazy for Casseroles, 275 All-American Hot-Dish Classics, by James Villas, The Harvard Common Press, 2003, $18.95
The Big Book of Casseroles, 250 recipes for serious comfort food, by Maryana Vollstedt, Chronicle Books, 1999, $19.95