Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Not Your Mother's Casseroles

by Faith Durand

My friend, Janice, found this cookbook at the public library read it a bit then passed it to me so I could check it out.  She was impressed by it and thought she would buy it.  I've browsed it and love it; am also thinking about buying it.  My mom came yesterday to watch Groovy Girl's Strut Your Stuff skating program and lo and behold; she spotted it on my library shelf, browsed through it and wants a copy as well!  I'm pretty sure that is not exactly why we borrow books from the library but oh, well.  At least when we purchase it we know what we are getting.

This book is packed full of awesome recipes and the title is correct-they aren't the gloppy soup-laden casseroles of my youth.  Luckily, my mother cooked with lots of variety but I did attend many church potlucks and one of my grandmother's was in love with a particular green bean casserole.  That memory makes  me laugh as she would say "Your a vegetarian, you can eat the green beans."  Yah, grandma, except they are swimming in a weird bacon gravy.  Thanks for thiinking of me.  Oh. She. Just. Didn't. Know.

The first great thing about this book is the introduction.  Durand explains the philosophy of casseroles, supplies, pans, filling your pantry and her preference for organic. 

My top ten favorite recipes (haven't tried them yet but they sound delicious)

1.  Baked Cheesy Chile Grits
2. Breakfast Brown Rice with Blueberries and Almonds
3. Lemon Brioche French Toast
4. Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Break
5. Gruyere and  Spinach Egg Puff
6. Baked Avocados with Tomato and Crab
7. Baked Eggplant Parmesan
8. Luscious Oven Creamed Corn
9. Summer Vegetable and Fresh Mozzaella Gratin
10. Sweet and Spicy Parsnip Bake

This list culls from only the first half of the book and I've chosen just vegetarian choices but there are many which include meat.  Durand includes helpful hints throughout the book like this one:

The Useful Mandoline

I am not a big proponent of owning a lot of fancy kitchen equipment. Most recipes in this book can be made with a good knife, a few spoons, a bowl, and a peeler (and a casserole dish, of course). but I do think that a mandoline or Japanese slicer is a huge help in preparing some of these casseroles-especially ones like this vegetable gratin, which calls for very thin, even slices of vegetables. You can find a Benriner Japanese mandoline for about $25.00 online. It will massively speed up your slicing. After I got one, I wondered what I ever did without it.(115)

I don't have a mandolin but I'm thinking about it now!  I could easily have picked ten recipes from the dessert section as well. 

I have made one recipe from the book and it turned out okay.  My kids ate them up but next time I would make them in a regular 13 x 9 pan instead of the jelly roll pan the recipe called for.  Here it is:

Baked Buttermilk Pancakes

Casserole dish: 10 1/2-in x 15 1/2 jelly roll pan
Bake time: 15 minutes (Yeah!)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T. sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
Pure maple syrup, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a med.-sized bowl.  Add the egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and butter.  Whisk to combine.  Do not overmix; the batter will have small lumps. 
3. Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.
4. Slice into long strips and serve hot, with warm maple syrup.

Then she gives a nice little snippet of advice about why it's best to use real maple syrup.  Our household agrees. We also love pancakes.  When I made these they were flatter than I expected.  I whipped them up the night before and baked them in the morning in a stone jelly roll pan.  This made me wonder if I could make pancake muffins with this recipe?

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme-click over there and check out all the other really excellent food-related posts. 

Faith Durand can be found at Apartment Therapy; The Kitchn.