The Unified Theory of 50s Casserole: A Primer
10 years ago
In my mind a 50s casserole is unique for a few reasons. The first is nearly all the ingredients are prepackaged or pre-cooked. Second, they utilize no spices, but rely solely on the seasoning from prepackaged foods. Finally, they are open, mix and bake meals.
Many of these casserole such as Pot Pie and Chicken Divan have been updated by American-style diners bent on charging you 16 bucks for a reminder of a simpler time. These updates are more labor intensive, requiring bechamel, copious amounts of spices (saffron, curry, etc) and fresh vegetables that have been peeled, cut and blanched. While delicious, these updates aren't really what I'm interested in. Instead, I've begun to consider the long-lost one dish supper. Yes, it's high in fat and high in sodium, but that doesn't change in newer versions and it certainly doesn't change the fact that it's darn delicious.
The theory: We are looking for a casserole baked at 350 degrees in a 9x13 pan for 20-25 minutes. It must be a meal on its own, though work well with a simple salad. It should rely on common pantry and refrigerator ingredients. It should satisfy both kids and adults.
Meat: 4 cups, chopped and cooked (chicken, turkey, ground beef, tuna)
Binder: 2 10.5 oz cans condensed cream soup (cream of mushroom, cream of celery, etc.)
Vegetable: 1 bag frozen vegetables
Cheese: 1 to 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, jack, colby jack, provolone, fontina)
Liquid: 1 c. stock/broth or 3/4 c broth/stock and 1/4 c. wine/sherry
Topping: 1 -2 cups bread crumbs, panko, crushed chips or saltine crackers, or another cup of cheese.
Pick one from each group (except topping) and mix together. Dump into 9x13 pan, top with topping of choice and bake.