Home Local News A Good Casserole = Inspiration + the Best Ingredients

A Good Casserole = Inspiration + the Best Ingredients


Casseroles still have a certain … association with midcentury moms and the Ladies Home Journal. The easy to prepare one-dish meals were comfort food for families at a time when the pace of life was gathering speed. But they were never junk food. With the right ingredients, a casserole can be nutritious as well as delicious.

Author Beatrice Ojakangas holds her own recipes in the highest regard judging by the title of her latest book, The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever. Induction into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame must have raised her estimation of herself! But let’s not judge by publisher’s hype but from the recipes themselves. A good casserole is inspiration plus whatever ingredients are in the kitchen. Ojakangas is an inspired chef whose ideas have been oven-tested and sampled at her dinner parties.

Odds are that casseroles in 2022 will be more creative, more flavorful than casseroles from 50 years ago. As Ojakangas points out, fresh produce, spices and herbs are more readily available and American tastes have gone global. Under the heading of beef-based casseroles, Ojakangas produces recipes from Morocco (with turmeric and ginger), Greece (cinnamon and olive oil) and Belgium (vegetable oil and brown sugar); for chicken, she ranges to Puerto Rico (white sauce, shredded cheddar cheese), the American Southwest (corn tortillas, poblano peppers) and Italy (Parmesan, oregano). Cheeseheads will love her three-cheese breakfast casserole (Swiss, cheddar, mango chego). Vegetarians will find casseroles made from mushrooms and green beans.

Ojakangas advises readers to steer away from that staple base for midcentury casseroles—canned cream-of-whatever soup. But the main reason for making casseroles still stands: you can pop one in the oven, go shopping and return home an hour later with dinner ready to serve.

The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever is published by University of Minnesota Press.

David Luhrssen

David Luhrssen lectured at UWM and the MIAD. He is author of The Vietnam War on Film, Encyclopedia of Classic Rock, and Hammer of the Gods: Thule Society and the Birth of Nazism.

Read more by David Luhrssen

May 03, 2022

4:29 p.m.

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