Early in my career as a food editor, I had an embarassing moment, or so I felt at the time. I had a blind date with a med student and when he found out I was a food editor, he asked me what my favorite kind of food was. Even though I think this is an impossible question to answer, I did answer rather stupidly, "I like casseroles" and could immediately see that this was the wrong answer. I guess he was expecting me to say that I adored rustic Tuscan cusine or the foods of northern Thailand or anything a little more sophisticated than casseroles.
The truth of the matter is that I do like casseroles and I'm happy to know that I am not alone in my simple tastes. My friend, Faith Durand, managing editor at The Kitchn, has recently written a cookbook called Not Your Mother's Casseroles and the book features updated versions of traditional casseroles. These recipes feature all the things I like about casseroles: they are easy to make, they call for ingredients I usually have on hand. and they're pretty much a one-dish meal. And these recipes don't have some of the things I usually object to in many casserole recipes, namely, canned cream soups, too much butter or cheese, and too many cracker crumbs.
Saturday night I made the Tortilla Chicken Casserole on page 225, which is a somewhat simplified version of King Ranch Chicken Casserole. I love that instead of a can of cream soup, you make a simple white sauce with flour and butter and stir in green chiles. Of course, I didn't follow the recipe directions exactly (sorry, Faith), but it still turned out great. I used low-carb flour tortillas because that's what I had on hand, and I use two less than the recipe called for. Other than that, I really did follow the recipe. I served it topped with salsa and was very happy with the results. So was my husband. He wanted it to be a little spicier, so next time I'll top with a hot salsa instead of mild, or maybe I'll use Monterey Jack cheese with peppers instead of Cheddar. Another great thing about casseroles is that you can vary them every time you make them, so it seems like you're making a whole new recipe.
I've already got a number of other recipes flagged in the book such as the Spring Vegetable Gratin, (left) Chickpea Casserole (above), and Mushroom Risotto, so I'll keep you posted on my "cooking with Faith" journey. (Hmmmm- a possible cookbook title?) If you are a closet casserole lover, sneak out and get a copy of Faith's book. I would love to hear about your favorites.
Oh, by the way, the med student did not ask me out again and I am now happily married to man who likes casseroles.