Learning from Failure in the Kitchen

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Casserole turned up in the English language by the year 1710, along with croquette, cutlet, pate, muffins and meringue. Years later in our home-economics class, we learned exactly what made a casserole so appealing. As budding homemakers, we could feed our families hot, satisfying food all in one dish. We used leftovers if necessary and had little clean up. We tried a number of different combinations and graduated, feeling confident that we could carry on our roles in the kitchen.

Meanwhile my intended, Doug, was graduating also and getting used to Navy cooking. His motto was and still is, “eat to live, not live to eat.” It served him well in the months spent in Korea. There were a few things the Navy served up that he couldn’t stomach but, thank goodness, casseroles were not among them. So when we got married he looked upon my experiments in the kitchen as possible, positive additions to his motto list.

Most of the time the concoctions were tasty and welcome. However, one dish turned out just WRONG. I admit I did not follow the recipe instructions, I couldn’t have because the food would not even come out of the dish.

A cornmeal crust held some kind of chili mixture. It smelled ok while baking but set upon with spoon, fork and knife, it refused to budge. That was the only time supper had to be put in the garbage in the dish. I cried. Doug admonished me to try again, not too soon though. And remember that there was no clean up. We ate out.

Now, over 40 years later, we have casseroles quite a bit. Here are two of our go-to ones in the winter.

Sausage-Cabbage Bake

2 cans (10.75 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup chopped onions, preferably green onions
1 cup sliced celery
3 cups shredded cabbage (one small head)
1 pound Polish or smoked sausage, cut to 1-inch pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Pour into 2-quart casserole and cover. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. Serve with salad and garlic bread.

All-In-One Casserole

2 cups cooked, cubed meat such as ham or chicken
1 can (10.75 ounce) cream soup — either mushroom, celery or chicken
3 cups vegetables such as leftover green beans, mushrooms, corn, peas or broccoli — drained
1 cup shredded mild cheddar or American cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (10 count) biscuits
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large saucepan combine all ingredients except biscuits and melted butter. Heat over low stirring to mix. Cook just till hot and bubbly. Pour into a 3-quart casserole dish.

Separate biscuits and arrange over hot mixture. Brush with melted butter. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown and cooked through.

Photo by Fotolia/koss13