Good Food with Evan Kleiman: Casserole Crazy

There's absolutely nothing high-brow about a casserole. This ubiquitous, endlessly adaptable Midwestern potluck dish is comfort food, pure and simple! Emily Farris, author of Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff For Your Oven, was on Good Food this past week telling us all about her favorite dish.

As anyone who grew up attending potluck dinners and church picnics knows, resistance is futile when it comes to the casserole. You may take one look at the goopy, starchy, cheesy dish and think that think, "Uh-uh, no way," but then you'll somehow find yourself coming back for seconds. Even the worst-made casseroles somehow still exert a magnetic power over our forks.

According to Farris, for a casserole to truly be a casserole, it needs to have two or more solid ingredients, it needs a binder of some sort, and it needs to be mixed instead of layered. Think of the most famous casseroles and you'll understand what she means:

Tuna Noodle Casserole = Tuna + Noodles + Mushroom Soup
Green Bean Casserole = Green Beans + Mushrooms + White Cream Sauce
Turkey Tetrazzini = Turkey + Mushrooms + Noodles + Cheese Sauce

And the basic process for all of these dishes is "mix and bake." Get the picture?!

Farris also points out that casseroles give us permission to use certain pre-made ingredients that have fallen out of style in recent years. These are foods that were considered pantry staples not too long ago like cream of mushroom soup, French-fried onions from a can, and cheese whiz. In fact, one of Farris's favorite versions of tuna noodle casserole includes "Salsa Con Queso"-style Cheese Whiz!

Do you have fond - or otherwise! - memories of casseroles?

• Hear the the full interview with Emily Farris and get a recipe for her Tuna Noodle Casserole on the Good Food website.
• Buy a copy of Farris's book Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff For Your Oven for $10.85 on Amazon.

Related: Recipe: Modern Green Bean Casserole

(Image: Flickr member africankelli licensed under Creative Commons)