Category Archives: casserole

Moussaka

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Layered with ground lamb and eggplant, moussaka is a classic Greek comfort food. Moussaka is to Greece what lasagna is to Italy. The best meals I’ve eaten in Greece have included moussaka. It is probably my favorite dish to order when dining in a Greek restaurant and I often use it as a gauge as to whether the place has good food; if their moussaka is good chances are their other food is good as well. But moussaka is easy to make at home so there isn’t any need to wait to dine in a Greek restaurant to enjoy it.

This recipe, from Williams Sonoma, lives up to those versions I’ve enjoyed in Greece. For me, the secret to a good moussaka is a tasty béchamel sauce and this version, with just a touch of grated nutmeg, doesn’t disappoint. I enjoy the taste of lamb and am fortunate to have ready access to it. If you prefer, or can’t find lamb, you can substitute ground beef or another ground meat. The dish won’t be quite as authentic but it will taste good just the same.

MOUSSAKA

2 medium eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices

7 tablespoon olive oil, divided plus additional for brushing

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cups whole milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

  • Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.
  • Brush the slices on both sides with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil and then season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper.
  • Roast until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets as necessary to ensure even cooking.
  • While the eggplant is roasting, set a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter.
  • Add the flour, bay leaf and nutmeg and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.

    Season with the remaining salt and pepper.

  • Let the sauce cool for 15 minutes, then remove and discard the bay leaf.
  • Whisk in the egg and 2 tablespoons of the cheese.
  • Set the béchamel sauce aside.
  • Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 3-1/2 quart Dutch oven set over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Add the ground lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain off the excess fat.
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper if needed, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the meat sauce to the bowl with the onion.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
  • Lightly brush the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven with olive oil.
  • Place a single layer of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the pot.
  • Spread one-fourth of the meat sauce on top.
  • Repeat with 4 more layers of eggplant and 3 more layers of meat sauce, ending with the eggplant.
  • Pour the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Transfer the pot to the oven and bake until the moussaka is browned and bubbly on top, about 40 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven.
  • Let the moussaka rest for 20 minutes before serving.

    Serves 6

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Chicken Tamale Pie

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How do you make a pot of chili even more comforting? Top it with cornbread then bake it until bubbling! This recipe, from Food 52, does just that, turning a warm and spicy stew into a one dish casserole that is sure to please everyone. And unlike many chilies, it doesn’t require long hours of slow cooking. The entire dish is actually quite simple with chicken, beans and corn simmering along with spices in a tomato broth. I’ve used all black beans in my version but you can use different beans or even a combination of beans. Use whatever you like or have on hand. The cornmeal topping is essentially polenta and this simple topping makes the dish feel like a complete meal.

This is so good and so satisfying. And as I discovered, it tastes even better when reheated the next day for lunch. You might even want to double the recipe!

CHICKEN TAMALE PIE

For the filling:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can sweet corn, drained

1 4-ounce can green chilies

1 12-ounce can diced tomatoes

 
For the topping:3/4 cup yellow cornmeal1/2 teaspoon saltcups watertablespoon unsalted butter

  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • In a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until it shimmers.
  • Add the cubed chicken, garlic, coriander, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Cook until chicken is browned on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  • Add chopped onion to the pot and cook down until soft and fragrant.
  • Add beans, corn, chilies, and tomatoes.
  • Bring mix to a boil and allow to cook and thicken. After the mixture has thickened, stir in the chicken and cook until heated through.
  • Remove chili from heat.
  • In a small pot, heat water and salt over medium high heat to almost boiling.
  • Stir in the cornmeal and continue whisking while it incorporates the water and thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • When it is thick, add the butter and mix in to melt. Remove from heat.
  • Pour the chili into a deep casserole dish then spread the cornmeal mixture evenly over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is firm and slightly browned.
  •  Allow to cool briefly, and then scoop into bowls to serve.

 Serves 6

Cheesy Corn Casserole

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Side dishes have never been my forte; I have a tendency to focus on the main dish and the dessert leaving the accompaniments to be an after thought to the meal. But one of my cooking resolutions for 2015 is to change all of that. After all, a simple protein dish can be dressed up when accompanied by a more complex and interesting side dish.

And because we are still in the heart of winter, this is the season for comfort food. Here in Belgium the days are still short and dark and the weather is almost always damp leaving me craving rich foods that both satisfy and warm me up. This creamy corn casserole, adapted from Saveur Magazine, fits the bill to a tee. It is rich, creamy and oh so good.

I baked it in a single casserole dish and served it family style at the table but if you wanted to make the dish a bit more formal, bake it in individual ramekin dishes. Serve it alongside grilled rib eye steaks or tangy bar-b-que chicken and you will have a dinner that is flavorful and satisfying to the whole family.

CHEESY CORN CASSEROLE

4 ounces pancetta, diced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1/4 cup flour

1 cup milk

4 ounces cream cheese

1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 15.2 ounce can whole kernel corn

1 15.2 ounce can creamed corn

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Cook the pancetta in a large saucepan set over medium heat until it is crisp and brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the butter and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the flour and stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute.
  • Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  • Add in the cream cheese, grated cheddar cheese and paprika. Stir and cook until the mixture is smooth.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the corn.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the mixture to a 3 quart casserole dish and bake until the top is browned and bubbling, about 40 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly before serving.

Serves 6

Turkey Tetrazzini

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

With the past year’s Thanksgiving a distant memory your probably think that all of your leftover turkey is a distant memory.  Each year I feel this way then I stumble across a lingering package of turkey tucked away in the freezer.  My solution?  A quick turkey tetrazzini.  This classic noodle and poultry casserole was a staple in my elementary school cafeterias.  This updated version from Williams Sonoma has done away with the infamous cream of mushroom soup that formed the base of my childhood version and uses real mushrooms and real parmesan cheese.  And best of all, because you are using pre-cooked meat that has defrosted in your refrigerator during the day, dinner can really be on the table in less than 45 minutes.

TURKEY TETRAZZINI

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, minced

1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups shredded cooked turkey

1/2 pound egg noodles, cooked according to the package instructions

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup panko crumbs

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish or 6 individual ramekins with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large frying pan set over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Add the shallots and mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.
  • In the same pan melt 4 more tablespoons of the butter.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the salt and pepper.
  • Pour the sauce into the bowl with the mushrooms and add in the turkey, cooked noodles, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and the green onions then stir to combine.
  • Melt the remaining butter in the microwave.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the panko crumbs, remaining cheese, and the melted butter.
  • Transfer the turkey mixture to the prepared baking dish(es) and sprinkle the crumb and cheese mixture evenly over the top.
  • Bake until the tetrazzini is bubbly around the edges and the crumbs are golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6

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