You will find no canned soups in Maryana Vollstedt's The Big Book of Casseroles. You will find 250 ways to simplify your weekly meal planning. The properly deployed casserole is economical of both time and money. Anyone living on a family budget--with a family--but eating according to a take-out lifestyle is going to love this book.
Jambalaya is a casserole. So is Coq au Vin. So is classic Hungarian Goulash. But let us not forget Turkey Tetrazzine. Or maybe we should forget. Maybe it's the Turkey Tetrazzines of the world made with leftover dried-out Thanksgiving turkey coming at us after the days of turkey soups and turkey sandwiches and turkey salads that have given the word casserole the kind of odor we look for behind the refrigerator. While Vollstedt's version of Turkey Tetrazzine doesn't ask for a can of cream of mushroom soup, and while it is made from fresh ingredients, the result is still going to be the same.
And that's one of the problems with The Big Book of Casseroles. It's so big, the demands of coming in with 250 recipes are so great, that classics of the genre that would be better off left to foggy memory are rejuvenated for another generation of unfortunate diners. The other problem is how the definition of casserole gets stretched by the author. Any substance covered with another and baked in an oven appears to be a casserole. When is baked fish a casserole and when is it simply baked fish? Such are the questions raised by Vollstedt's choices.
The book covers a lot of ground. Chapters include those on "Basics" (as in white sauce), "Seafood Casseroles," "Poultry Casseroles," "Meat Casseroles," "Vegetable Casseroles," "Baked Pastas," "Grain and Legume Casseroles," "Gratins," and "Low-Fat Casseroles." There are no dessert casseroles.
Vollstedt shows you where the casserole has been, and where it is. Use The Big Book of Casseroles as a launching pad for your own creative endeavors. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Vollstedt's (What's for Dinner?) reliable collection of robust food encompasses many ethnicities (Seafood Lasagna, Baked Tandoori Chicken on Lentils, Spicy Beef Enchilada Casserole). Recipes are clearly written and carefully worded, and chapters are divided easily by ingredients (seafood, poultry, etc.). Many dishes rely heavily on cheese and other dairy products (California Casserole uses 2 cups of sour cream and 4 cups of Monterey Jack; Italian Potato Casserole incorporates 2 cups of mozzarella and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan), but Vollstedt compensates with a chapter on low-fat casseroles that includes Spinach, Parmesan Cheese, and Rotini with Pine Nuts, Brown Rice and Broccoli, and Greek Meatballs in Tomato-Yogurt-Mint Sauce made with ground lamb. Vollstedt stretches the definition of casserole to incorporate Tangy Baked Shrimp, Turkey Loaf and Baked Sweet Potatoes (the latter two are cooked separately but served together) and a whole chapter of gratin recipes. An introduction with instructions for making the basic components, freezing casseroles at different stages and reducing fat and calories rounds out this solid effort.
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