The Great Debate: Do Casseroles Deserve a Place at Our Dining Tables? Here Are Two Takes

Categories: Food Fight

casserole on Make A Gif

Photos by striatic
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word "casserole" was first used in 1708, but the origin of the word can be traced to a much earlier time. It comes from the French word for saucepan, which possibly has its roots in the Greek kyathos, which means ladle, bowl or cup. The dictionary describes casserole as "an earthenware or glass baking dish, usually with a cover, in which food can be cooked and then served" and "the food baked and served in such a dish, typically rice, potatoes or macaroni together with meat or fish and vegetables."

Sounds innocuous enough.

So why are people so divided on casseroles? Poll any group, and you're bound to find both people who love casseroles and people who cannot stand them. We found such a divide in our own newsroom, so we decided to nominate one pro-casserole person and one anti-casserole person to duke it out.

Which side are you on?

sausage_egg_scramble_casserole.jpg
Photo by Steven Depolo
This sausage scrambled egg casserole is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Pro-casserole by Molly Dunn
Growing up, I always craved a hearty shepherd's pie on cold winter nights. There's something about a warm helping of mashed potatoes with ground beef, carrots, peas, onions and cheese that could always warm my heart and my stomach.

Casseroles, or hotdishes (for those from the north), have stood the test of time. While food trends and culinary styles have progressed and changed each year, casseroles are still popular dishes among families, households and the community.

A casserole is one of the easiest ways to welcome someone to the neighborhood, lend a helping hand during a rough patch in someone's life, or simply feed a bunch of hungry mouths any night of the week. Pasta, chicken, ground beef, potatoes, rice, vegetables and everything else in between can be made into a casserole. No need to worry about picky eaters: There's something for everyone. Casseroles are one of the most popular items brought to family gatherings, picnics, funerals and potluck lunches. And there's a reason (actually, several) why people love them.

First and foremost, a casserole is a simple dish to make, and easy to prepare in advance. For those who don't have time to prepare a full dinner for their family when they get home from work, a casserole is their saving grace. Assemble it the night before and pop in the oven when you get home -- dinner is ready in a snap.

Take, for instance, shepherd's pie. Simply brown the beef in a skillet, add the vegetables, tomatoes and seasoning, place the mixture into a casserole dish, cover with mashed potatoes and cheese, then bake for just 15 minutes. Voilà! You have a hearty, comforting and scrumptious casserole. You'll get several servings out of one dish and will still have some for leftovers.

baked_ziti_casserole.jpg
Photo by Meaghan O'Malley
You want Italian? Oh yeah, there's a casserole for that.
While some people instantly think of tuna noodle casserole as the stereotypical "casserole dish," they don't realize that many of their favorite dishes are in fact casseroles -- the word "casserole" doesn't need to be in the title for a dish to be considered one, you know. Lasagna, mac and cheese, chicken potpie and enchiladas are all casseroles.

Your favorite celebrity chefs also have sophisticated versions of classic casserole dishes, such as Alton Brown's Curry Chicken Pot Pie or Emeril Lagasse's Twice Baked Potato Casserole. Each of these uses real ingredients; no condensed soups here.

Casseroles are also not limited to dinner; they can be made for breakfast and dessert. Scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage and cheese sitting on top of an English muffin or biscuit halves make for a perfect breakfast casserole. The individual servings from each English muffin or biscuit half makes things easy for large families or social gatherings. Desserts can also easily be made in a casserole form. Use a large casserole dish or small individual dishes for bread pudding, cobbler and upside-down cake or molten lava chocolate cake.

While casseroles are easy-to-make, comforting money-savers and come in a variety of forms, the most important reason they're wonderful is their ability to bring families and friends together.

For those of you in favor of casseroles, what are your favorite recipes?



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14 comments
Chris Watkins
Chris Watkins

FFS, though, that top image is making my eyes bleed with the color changes. Please for to stop and use animated GIFs responsibly- cat antics, nut shots, &c. :)

Jimmy McLaughlin
Jimmy McLaughlin

Ah...West Virginia style broccoli and cheez-it casserole! Great!

Chris Watkins
Chris Watkins

They are great ways to increase utilization, freeze well, and are tasty. I'm on team King Ranch.

Patrick
Patrick

Sweet God, Steinberg, this puts you on the anti-cassoulet side and there is nothing more satisfying and comforting that a good well-made Toulousean cassoulet. 

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Anti casserole, aside from green bean (fresh green beans only).

ducttaperoses
ducttaperoses

Obviously pro-casserole wins since even the anti-casserole person admitted to liking some casseroles (even if she doesn't consider them casseroles).  Maybe if she weren't so snobbish about them she would realize that 1) duh, casseroles can also be made of fresh ingredients, and 2) not everyone has the privilege of eating entirely new food at every meal.  Sometimes you have not-quite-enough of something left over and it's more practical and economical to combine it with something else than to waste it.  (Also: Some cooked meals taste better a day or two later.  Fresh chili?  Not as good as day-after chili.)

gritsforbreakfast1
gritsforbreakfast1

"they (generally) don't make use of canned ingredients"

 I see you suffer from a flawed definition. My mother made casseroles with cream of mushroom soup and canned ingredients,  and those deserve critique. But I make similar concoctions with fresh ingredients and broth-based gravy that dramatically improves the fare. A good shepherd's pie served on a cold day is greater than the sum of its parts. Ditto for a good King Ranch casserole. You're not against casseroles, you're against lazy, low-quality cooking. They are not (necessarily) synonyms.

Chandler
Chandler

@Chris Watkins  

Can I hit LIKE about a thousand times? Pls stop that shit. It's worse than the annoying pop-ups/overs/unders/corner peels and all the other bs distractions

devon
devon

@Patrick 

That's more a bean stew than a casserole IMO

Patrick
Patrick

@Devon

Beans, aromatics, duck, pork, sausage topped with bread crumbs to give it a top crust when cooked uncovered in the oven traditionally in a dish called a cassole from which both the words cassoulet and casserole are derived...nope, that's a casserole.

Chandler
Chandler

@Patrick  

No it's a stew that's finished in the oven; we can argue, but you don't cook the raw ingredients of a cassoulet in the oven, you finish it off there. Are you going to claim that a dish that's cooked on a range and finished under the salamader a casserole because it's browned there and served in a broiler dish?

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