Today’s fast pace of living dictates our eating habits more than we want to admit. This is why the world needs more easy-to-prepare one pot dishes and this is where casseroles come in the picture. So, no wonder nowadays this dish is gaining in popularity much like it did in its heyday, in the middle of the last century.
Actually, a casserole is not one typical dish, but it refers to any recipe baked in a casserole pan. The disambiguation here is of crucial importance since the Italian lasagna, the Greek moussaka, and even the shepherd’s pie from the British Isles can all be considered casseroles.
What makes casserole recipes so popular is they can be made in advance, they are economical and preparing them is a breeze. So, if you are looking for a way to re-use your leftovers and do this in a fracture of the time you’d need to prepare any other dinner appropriate dish, casseroles are the answer to your prayers.
Since casserole refers more to the way of preparing, rather than the ingredients each recipe contains, here are some of the basics you should bear in mind when preparing a casserole dish.
Choose the Right Casserole Pan
Since casseroles got the name by the pan they are prepared in, it is only logical that choosing the right vessel is crucial for a perfect casserole. Since it is a one-time investment, don’t be stingy, once you’ve used it for the first time you will see that owning a good-quality casserole dish is priceless. The perfect casserole pan should bake evenly, it should have roomy handles (so that you can carry it easily) and let us not forget the appearance factor. Since more often than not casseroles are served at parties and holidays, the pan should also be eye-appealing.
Traditionally, these dishes are rectangular or square baking pans, but there is not much confinement when it comes to the shape. If you prefer the round ones go for a round one, it is totally up to you.
A good casserole dish should be flameproof and ovenproof. So, you can go with either aluminized steel, Pyrex or even earthenware. There are, of course, differences in the cooking time with all of these. If you opt for the last one, for instance, you should be aware of the fact that earthenware heats up slower than metal or glass, so if you are looking for a quicker solution go for one of the others.
Just like it is the case with many other things in life, size matters when it comes to casserole dishes as well. If the pan is too small, there is a risk of the liquid overflowing. If on the other hand, the pan is too large, the liquid might reduce too quickly and the final result will be dry or even burnt. A great rule of thumb is to choose a pan that when filled at the beginning of the cooking process, will be about ¾ full. However, if you are one that needs numbers, the best size for a casserole dish is 9- by 13-inches.
This also depends in large part on the way you want your final outcome to be. Say, if you want a crunchy topping, you should use a shallow dish. If you are aiming to feed a larger party, you can always go for those lightweight aluminum foil pans that are disposable.
If you don’t want your food to lose moisture while cooking, then putting a tight-fitting lid on your casserole dish is a must!
Make the Casserole Ahead
One of the features that make casseroles so convenient a dish is the fact that you can save time by preparing them ahead. Most casseroles can be refrigerated for a day or two, and if you freeze them up they can even last up to three months. If you choose to freeze your casserole you will be making yourselves a favor, since the flavors will mingle and fully develop thus ensuring an even tastier result. Mind you, don’t use plastic wrap to coat your casseroles with, since you might forget to dispose of it and plastic wraps are definitely not oven safe. Instead, wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Another thing you should bear in mind is you can’t just throw the casserole in the oven frozen. To avoid overcooking your ingredients and ensure even baking (i.e. to not let the outer edge cook too fast and the middle too slowly), allow at least 24 hours for the casserole to fully defrost in the fridge, and then let it come up to room temperature while the oven preheats.
Par-Cook Your Ingredients
Par cook is short for partially cooking something and it is a process that is more than welcomed when preparing casseroles. Par cooking will allow you to combine ingredients that vary in cooking time. So, if you are to combine veggies that need more cooking time, say carrots and root vegetables with those that are cooked more quickly (broccoli, beans) you can boil, steam, sauté or even roast the first. However, do honor the “par” part, cook the vegetables until they soften and then toss them to the casserole with the other veggies.
Never Skip the Binder
With casseroles, it is crucial to keep all the ingredients intact. So, choosing a binder like a sauce or egg mixture is of vital importance. Luckily, casserole recipes are versatile and the binders you can opt for may take many different forms. Anything from béchamel, curry, and pasta sauce, to whipped eggs, or even cream of mushroom soup.
Never Skip the Topping
There is nothing that beats the contrast of a crispy topping and a creamy, warm casserole. So, please don’t skip this part. If you don’t feel like spending money on extra ingredients, don’t worry, you can always use whatever you have in your pantry. Anything from fried shallots and onions to crumbled bacon and crushed potato or tortilla chips will do.
Also, a tasty casserole topping might come out of re-using your leftover bread. Toss it in a food processor and turn it into breadcrumbs. These will serve as a crispy and delicious topping for your casserole and by mixing them with a little bit of melted butter or olive oil they will turn golden and will be even crispier.
For extra flavor add in some herbs, spices and of course, the inevitable- grated cheese. Parmesan, Mozzarella, Swiss cheese, whichever you like the best, they are all guaranteed to melt into an even layer and bubble up making the casserole irresistible.
The Best Corn Casserole Recipes
As we have already mentioned, “casserole” is a broad term that may refer to complicated dishes like biryani, lasagna, cassoulet, etc., or, it might also refer to a mix of a few ingredients that will only take up 10 minutes of prep time and another 50 for the oven or stove to work their magic.
A very good example of the easy peasy casseroles is this creamy corn casserole. Delicious, hearty, and satisfying, this creamed corn casserole is all you ever wanted. The sautéed onion brings everything together and the crunchy cracker topping only makes things more interesting.
Talk about taking a recipe up a notch. The Paprika Corn Casserole is not only a great take on corn casserole, but it is also one of the best casseroles you will ever prepare. A sweet, buttery casserole with crispy bacon inside is topped with a mixture of cereal, butter, and paprika to make what is the best side dish one can think of!
The best part about this corn casserole recipe is it can be made with both chicken and pork. If you decide to go for the pork part, though, make sure you buy boneless pork chops and replace the poultry seasoning with a blend of ½ teaspoon of paprika, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon of thyme. Made with both white and yellow corn, and bubbling cheese, this casserole is truly a must try!
The Health Benefits of Corn
As you can notice from the above-mentioned corn casserole recipes, there are at least two different types of corn, white and yellow (though there is also blue, purple and red corn) and all of them will provide you with numerous health-benefits. It is important to emphasize the health boosting powers of corn because oftentimes people dismiss it as a plain snack food with no nutritive value at all.
First of all, corn is a great antioxidant. This is due to the fact that corn is phytonutrient-rich food. Yellow corn, in particular, contains the antioxidant called carotenoids and it contains incredibly high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin, and antioxidant nutrients like the mineral manganese.
Apart from its antioxidant powers, corn is also a rich source of beta-carotene. And since beta carotene forms vitamin A, this means that eating corn will have beneficial effects on the vision and the skin. Also, that part of beta-carotene that doesn’t convert into vitamin-A acts as a very strong antioxidant.
Furthermore, a cup of corn contains nearly 20% of the total daily recommended amount of fiber. This means that corn is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Corn is packed with Vitamin B constituents, like Thiamin and Niacin, crucial for the nervous system and cognitive function.
Jiffy Corn Casserole
The very word “jiffy” is defined as a very short period of time, a moment even, and the jiffy mix will save you the time and energy you’d need to prepare your own baking mix.
This pretty convenient corn mix is marketed by a company that has been around ever since 1930- The Chelsea Milling Company in Chelsea, Michigan. An interesting fact about the company is that they spend literally zero dollars on advertising, yet they produce one of the best muffin mixes around. Talk about letting the product sell itself J. What is even more interesting is that the jiffy corn mix is actually assigned with 91 percent of the company’s retail sale. So, here are several recipes for jiffy corn casseroles that might come in handy.
This corn dog casserole recipe calls for a small box of corn muffin mix, so you can easily use the Jiffy type. The final outcome is a delicious meal that is going to delight the whole family. Guaranteed!
If you are a fan of this tasty dish made of corn-based dough steamed in a corn husk, then you will sure adore the sweet taste of this chicken tamale jiffy corn casserole made with a corn muffin mix. The ground chili powder, the chopped green chilies and the enchilada sauce bring all the Mexican flavors into this casserole and make one delicious meal!
Another casserole recipe that can easily include the jiffy corn mix. The original, though, doesn’t require a jiffy mix in particular, and you can use whichever mix you possibly want. Either way, the result will be the same: a satiating, creamy casserole with a crunchy topping. In one word: YUM!
All in all, corn casseroles in particular, are not only easy to prepare, but also incredibly delicious and, as it is obvious from the “corn benefits” section, incredibly nutritious as well. So, go ahead and prepare one of the delicious recipes we have selected for you, or better still, be creative and make your own corn casserole.