Several years ago, my son bought me a cookbook called 101 Things to Do with a Casserole (Ashcraft). Being compelled to buy me such a cookbook tells you how not great I was at making casseroles. Making a pleasantly memorable casserole is not just a matter of throwing ingredients together. They don’t have to be complicated, but it helps to understand what the ingredients do for each other; which are essential and which are not; and which do NOT go together. All of these questions can be answered with basic recipes and then by trial and error.
Casseroles are an American classic. In the 1950’s the American homemaker designed casseroles to be easy, budget-friendly, nutritious, and often to use leftovers. Three things I’ve come to understand about casseroles is that despite what Campbell says, canned soups are not essential. Secondly, casseroles are a magical. Thirdly, casseroles fit any dietary concern by adding and subtracting ingredients.
While casseroles are generally not complicated, their complexity is up to the chef. A can of cream-of-something soup, a vegetable, and meat or fish can come together as an uncomplicated casserole. Substitute the soup for spaghetti sauce or eggs and add spices and herbs, and we have complexity, but still not complicated. No special tools are needed or order of ingredients, but the result is a flavorful, fill-you-up meal that’s likely to please most everyone.
A breakfast or anytime casserole is one of the best ways to use up stale bread. I make the following recipe the day before, then serve it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If baked ahead, it can be refrigerated, then covered and reheated.
Red pepper and ground sausage anytime casserole
1 lb. ground pork sausage
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 small onion, diced
2 Med red peppers, diced
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1 tsp. ground mustard
3 tsp Italian herbs
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
6 bread slices cut into 1” cubes
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
In a fry pan, brown the sausage over medium heat. Use a fork, break apart the sausage as it cooks, and crumbles into small pieces. Set aside. Before adding to a large bowl, crack open each egg in a separate dish. One rotten egg will ruin the whole bowl of eggs! Beat the eggs; add milk, salt, pepper, mustard, herbs, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well. Now stir in bread cubes, cheese, diced onions, red peppers, and sausage. Experiment with adding leftover vegetables. Sub bacon or ham for sausage. The herbs and mustard add complexity.
Pour into greased 9” X 13” baking dish or deep dish pie plate. Bake uncovered at 350°F for 35 min or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Optional: Tightly wrap unbaked casserole and freeze for up to three months. Thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator before baking.