Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Casserole Crazy and Childhood Memories

Casserole Crazy, by Emily Farris

Here's shout-out to Emily Farris, author of Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff in the Oven. I first met Emily through BEAM camp, and I didn't know that she was a casserole chef in addition to her many other talents. Her new book just came out, so I want to give her props. Emily also hosts a Annual Casserole Party in November that seems to be a hot ticket in Brooklyn.

Although I am not a big casserole person myself, I love the book and there an obvious home for casseroles at family dinners. They are something easy that you can throw together when you have a minute and then pop on the oven for a fresh, home-cooked dinner. With cooler weather and thoughts of economizing, casseroles seem a perfect fit for the times.

I don't really have casserole memories as a child. Growing up in Florida in the 1970s (a recession-era), the Crock Pot was our family dinner staple. My mom would throw chicken and a can of soup in there, plug it in, and then dash off to work. Many hours later, it would be dinner. It sounds gross, but I remember loving it. The only family casserole dish I know of is "Concoction," which is a Depression-era dish made by my husband's Grandpa Dave. It includes ground meat, cheese, noodles, and corn flakes, believe it or not. I think the recipe stems from a USDA cookbook designed to help people stretch the surplus food they would give out in the 1930s and 1940s. Yes, I ate it, out of love and respect. I have similar memories of his famous Rainbow Jello, which was a multi-layer extravaganza he created for holidays. Since I never really knew my own grandparents, meals and food I ate with Grandpa Dave in my early twenties substitute for childhood ones. My children have been lucky to know Great-Grandpa Dave (who is now 93) as well as their grandparents. (We miss Grandpa Jonny terribly, though).

Emily claims casseroles as a Midwestern staple, with far more upscale potential than a pot with a plug or a dish with cornflakes. Hence, her recipes might include sun-dried tomatoes or portobello mushrooms. I'm going to try this recipe printed in The Brooklyn Paper. I will probably substitute cremini mushrooms because that's what I have on hand. I'll report back on the results. Since I don't own a Crock-Pot, maybe I can create some casserole childhood memories for my kids.

I couldn't find a recipe for Dave's "Concoction," but I found this:
How to Make a Casserole: A Simple Scientific Formula at Helium.
Casserole Crazy by Emily Farris, at Amazon

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