Casserole is a magic word.
It’s also a word with an excellent genealogy. Its immediate roots are from the French language and a word for sauce pan, which seems reasonable enough, especially when you consider that we use the word for both the cooking vessel and the food within it.
But if you trace further you’ll find that the word relates to the Latin word for bowl, and the ancient Greek “kyathion” which is like a pet name for the “dipper for the wine bowl.” So, if you ponder it, the word casserole both begins and ends with sharing.
Casserole has a long tradition of spreading the wealth – for those of us who grew up in the rural South, a church social often meant long tables laden with oblong and deep serving vessels full of tuna bake, hamburger pie, scalloped potatoes with ham, and any number of dishes full of creamy chicken concoctions or green beans dressed with fried onions and cream of mushroom soup.
For me, those are the bright memories of an otherwise difficult relationship with the little fundamentalist church that dominated so many of my greener days. But for every recollection of that experience that troubles me, there’s also the image of my Mamaw Ethel and every other good cook who would fill the tables of a church supper with food. Mamaw and her cohorts always brought extra to those gatherings – even if their own pantries were thin, it was essential that the church supper was a feast. Never a matter of pride, they believed in having more than enough to share.
And if you were a visitor caught unawares by the feast, or perhaps a poorer member who couldn’t contribute much or anything to the table, then those sweet ladies would practically manhandle you to the front of line. For them, the only sin on that day was if anyone went away hungry, and the only message to preach was to share and share alike.
And sharing, as you may know, is a particularly potent form of magic: it has the power to create friends and banish loneliness; it warms the heart and comforts the sad; and for traditions and thinkers as diverse as Lao Tzu and St. Francis, sharing is the key to happiness as well as the root of goodness.
It may seem a little too much to expect from the humble casserole. Cynics may see only that casseroles are convenient, easy ways to feed a crowd. But as far as I can tell, if you’re even thinking about feeding a crowd, then you’re on the track.
Even so, casseroles don’t have to be open and dump a can conveniences or concoctions of dubious merit – and they shouldn’t be. As you can see below in Mahasti’s recipe, a well-considered casserole not only shares lots of food, it shares lots of flavor. In this case, the excellent taste of Chile Rellenos is deconstructed into layers that are simple to assemble without sacrificing the savory joy of the original dish.
Perhaps you’ll tune into WBIR tomorrow morning for Weekend Today – Mahasti will be live showing you how easy it is to make magic and share the love.
Tomato Head’s Chile Rellenos Casserole
3 Poblano Peppers
Rinse Peppers and place on a cookie sheet under the broiler. Turn peppers until charred on all side.
Remove the peppers from the oven, place in a covered container and allow to cool. When peppers are cool enough to handle, with gloved hands, peel and de-seed peppers. Dice Peppers and set aside.
After Broiling, Turn your oven to 425 degrees.
½ cup Masa Harina
¾ cups Whole MIlk
Mix Masa Harina into milk and set aside.
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Onion, Diced
1 lb ground Pork or Beef
½ jar Frontera Ancho Adobo
1- 28 oz can Fire Roasted Diced Tomato (puree ½ of the can in the blender – leave the other half diced)
2 tsp ground Cumin
2 tsp Salt
½ – 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp paprika
2 tsp Sugar
½ cup Cilantro, chopped
2 cups Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until fragrant. Add ground meat, sautéing to break up lumps until meat is cooked through. Add Adobo, and sauté until meat is coated with sauce. Add remaining ingredients, as well as chopped poblanos and cook on low for 10 minutes.
Pour meat mixture into an 8×11 baking dish and top with 2 cups of shredded cheese.
2 egg whites
1 tsp salt
½ tsp Cracked Black Pepper
In a stand mixer with a whip attachment or with a hand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks. Gently fold Masa mixture, salt and pepper into egg whites.
Pour egg mixture over cheese layer and gently spread out to cover entire surface of baking dish. Place the casserole in oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on wire rack for 10 – 15 minutes. Serve with sour cream, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapenos, corn tortillas and or corn chips.
Serves 4-6 people.