When I think of Hamburger Helper, I think of home. It’s funny how certain meals give us warm fuzzy feelings, no matter how much MSG they may contain. Growing up in the upper Midwest, the casserole was a staple, long before the sexier term “one-pot meals” or “skillet dinners” came into our vernacular.
Then I moved to Minnesota, which I can confirm is distinctly different from the rest of the Midwest, and to make this point abundantly clear, casseroles, skillets, and one-pot meals are all considered HOTDISHES here. There was even a restaurant that dedicated it’s namesake to the meal, aptly named Haute Dish.
Haute Dish has since closed, but in my heart remains a space for all the casseroles of my childhood. I can’t think of my high school boyfriend without remembering my favorite meal his mother made (some sort of sour cream/chicken/broccoli cheddar bake). And while I’m not sure I’ll be able to make casseroles “happen” again, I did turn to my team to collect a series of their favorite casserole (or casserole adjacent) dishes. I hope that you, my predominantly coastal readers, will consider the humble yet comforting casserole before writing it off as only something your Midwestern aunt brought to Thanksgiving.
Coconut Rice with Brussels Sprouts
This is a favorite dish in my rotation. You’ve got added creaminess in the rice along with a ton of flavor thanks to an herby, spicy sauce. This dish is vegan and is incredibly filling!
Cheesy Sausage, Green Bean, and Potato Bake
This recipe is super easy and delicious. You can swap out cheese types based on your preference, and I find that the lemon lightens up the flavor in the best way.
Smoked Salmon and Haddock Kedgeree
When I lived in London with my college boyfriend, we rented a flat in Clapham North from a creative director and an illustrator. Not only was their home beautiful but they were also incredible cooks. I still remember the dish they served us one night for dinner. It was a one-pot rice dish, spotted with smoked fish, capers, and almonds. I had never had anything like it and still crave it to this day. Then, finally, I opened a Mary Berry cookbook I’d received for Christmas and found a dish that resembled it. It’s not exactly the same, but the dish itself feels to me like a cross between kedgeree and paella.
Turkey Skillet Casserole
What I love about this kind of recipe is that it’s like tacos in the form of a casserole, so I serve it with all of the sides you would serve with tacos: cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, chips, and lettuce. My addendum to the recipe is that I double the pasta to make it go further and serve a bigger group. It doesn’t seem to dilute the flavor. It makes for excellent leftovers too!
Gratin Dauphinoise (Scalloped Potatoes)
One of my favorite dishes my mom made when I was growing up was scalloped potatoes. I crave it often and find that few things taste as warm and as comforting to me. I’ve adapted my mom’s method to include some influence from the French, and I think the texture and taste of this dish are really lovely.
Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
This recipe is complete comfort food. The taste is so rich and flavorful, and the cracker mixture on top, baked until golden brown, is divine.
BY Kate Arends - January 19, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.