Thursday, April 01, 2010

All Purpose Casserole Recipe

Another recipe for Mikel and whoever else might be interested: Here's an all-purpose casserole that's a staple around the Henson household: comfort food that's relatively quick and easy to make, even after a long day's work.

  • Base: Rice or spaghetti. (Instant rice is okay, but long cooking brown rice or,even better, red himalayan rice makes for a tastier, more substantive casserole. If you're using spaghetti, break dry spaghetti in halves before boiling with little olive oil in the water.)
  • Meat: One pound or less of ground hamburger works well. You can also use leftovers, including, for example, scraps from a roasted chicken, holiday turkey etc..
  • Veggies. Stir fry your own if you have fresh you need to use (broccoli is good), or add a bag of frozen mixed veggies (household favorite is green peas; with rice, but not spaghetti, corn works well, but really any bag of mixed frozen veggies will do).
  • Chicken or Beef Broth (2 cups or more, as necessary): You can use water if you're broke and need to skimp - it will still taste good - but broth gives a richer flavor.
  • Flour - just a small amount, a half cup or less, to create a gravy
  • Grated cheesse
  • Spray-on Pam or butter/oil to grease a 13x9 casserole dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook 1-1/2 -2 cups of rice per the directions, or boil spaghetti (broken in half) with a dollop of olive oil in the water.

If using ground beef or some other meat like sausage that requires cooking, salt and pepper and cook it in a frying pan with a little olive oil and butter. If using fresh vegetables, add them to the meat when it's nearly finished cooking and mix thoroughly, sauteing both together.

When meat (or meat/vegetable mixture) in frying pan appears adequately cooked, take 1/4 - 1/2 cup of flour and sprinkle moderately over all of it. Take spoon and mix it all together so the flour sticks to filling, then pour in chicken broth, stirring constantly. Start with two cups (and don't worry if you run out of broth and need to use water). Stir constantly until the whole concoction begins to boil and simmer. If it thickens to a nice, gravy like texture, great, turn the heat off and you're done with this step. If it's too thick, add more broth or water. If it's too liquidy, put a little more flour in a separate small bowl, mix it with broth or water in a slurry, and add a little at a time, stirring all the while, until the gravy reaches the desired thickness. At that point, turn off the heat.

Spray your casserole dish with Pam or use butter or oil to grease the bottom and sides.

Lay the rice or spaghetti on the bottom of the casserole dish. If you're using frozen vegetables, open the uncooked package and spread the contents over the base. Then pour in the whole contents of the frying pan, meat, veggies, gravy, and all. Mix together thoroughly in the casserole dish so the gravy gets over everything.

Spread grated cheese over the top to taste. I use pre-grated cheddar from the grocery store which is relatively inexpensive and perfectly adequate for most everyday purposes.

Place the casserole dish, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. (It doesn't have to stay in there long because everything has already been cooked once.)

When you remove the casserole, let it sit for ten minutes before serving. If you don't it will fall apart, but if you give it 10 minutes to set up it comes out in nice, neat squares - particularly the version with rice. Feeds 4-6 or makes enough for a family meal with leftovers.

This is a favorite household dish. A family tradition with holiday turkey after both Thanksgiving and Christmas is to make a turkey tetrazzini that's essentially this recipe with spaghetti, leftover turkey frozen peas and a gravy made separately. But the great thing about this is it's a technique more than a recipe, so you can adapt it to basically whatever you have around the house.