Due to the difficult economic climate, in the past couple of months, the casserole — a one-pot dish that feeds a crowd and often consists of budget-friendly ingredients — has made a strong comeback. To fully embrace the trend, I recently obtained a copy of The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever ($24.95) by Beatrice Ojakangas. It's filled with over 500 casserole recipes, and to find out what I thought of this cookbook,
- The book takes a healthy approach to casseroles by encouraging home cooks to make their own sauces to replace the "cream of" soups.
- There's a loose interpretation of the word "casserole." According to the author, casserole can "refer either to the dish that the food is cooked in or to the food itself." So, while there are plenty of classic casserole recipes, there are also tons of recipes for one-pot, baked dishes.
- The book covers every type of cuisine and cooking procedure, from classic breakfast dishes to Moroccan-influenced dinners to casseroles for two.
- Some of the recipes lack important details. For example, step two in the chili con queso recipe says to "melt butter in a small skillet and add the green onions and poblano peppers. Saute for 5 minutes." The recipe fails to mention the temperature of the stove.
- The ingredient lists have too many options, leaving it up to the home cook to decide what to include in the casserole. A recipe will say "heavy cream or sour cream" "4 slices of bacon or 1/2 cup cooked ham." Surely the casserole tastes different depending on which ingredient is used. I prefer for the cookbook author to tell me which one tastes better.
- There are virtually no color photographs. In fact, there are almost no photos at all.
Recipes: The focus of this book is clearly the recipes and there is definitely something for everyone. Here are the casserole recipes I would like to make:
- All of the hot cheese slather spreads in the appetizer section
- Cheese and sausage breakfast pie
- Chicken Marengo
- Chicken, polenta, and morel casserole
- Beer-baked Irish beef
- Fiesta casserole
- Casserole-braised lamb shanks
- Crab melt casserole
- Corn and chive pudding
- Peaches and cream dessert casserole
Imagery: There are about 16 color photographs in the entire book. Although these images are mouthwatering and professional, some seem a little too stylized.
Overall Rating: If you love casseroles or use the oven to do most of your cooking, you will love this book. The insane quantity of recipes guarantees that you'll be using it in the years to come.