Not Your Mother’s Casseroles

Cover of Not Your Mother's Casseroles by Faith Durand

Not Your Mother’s Casseroles — Revised and Expanded Edition
Faith Durand
Harvard Common Press, 2017

As a child of the 70s, my terrifying experience with casseroles begins and ends with something called a “7-Layer Dinner” that included, among other things, ground beef, a can of tomato soup, canned peas, canned corn, and maybe some potatoes. I’m gapping on what the other layers were, probably because the combination was so horrific that my brain has tried to erase the memory of it. (Thankfully my family was not casserole-positive so we were mostly spared the travesties of glompy tuna and pasta.)

To get around that horror, Durand — a long-time food writer, James Beard Award winner, and editor of the website The Kitchn — plays a wee bit fast and loose with her definition of “casserole”, including a general collection of baked dishes from the more traditional lasagna to baked oatmeal and even baked pancakes. (Yes, on a baking sheet, then cut into slices. I KNOW… crazy but cool, right?)

Recipes include the casserole basics of a hearty starch such as pasta, rice, bread, or potatoes with various meats, cheeses, and vegetables. The collection is fairly global in its scope with biryani, risottos, and tacos. Durand’s recipe for Pot Chicken and Potatoes Baked in Cinnamon-Saffron Milk seems slightly more complicated than necessary (especially when compared to a similar recipe in One Knife, One Pot, One Dish), but does sound tasty with added potatoes and lemon.

Other than for breakfast items, Durand sorts dishes by their main ingredient, so a section of pasta, a section of rice, a section for meat dishes, and another section of desserts. These are flagged on the outside edge of the page making them easy to find, but I’d have loved to see each dish clearly marked as vegetarian/vegan, as many of the rice and pasta dishes call for stock or a meat element.

Fans of cookbooks for the food porn aspect will be disappointed by the lack of photos; while photos are included, they are not for every dish. This book is meant to be a workhorse that actually gets used, not something you read in bed with no intentions of ever cooking from it.

Having said that, this workhorse would be a really great addition to most cookbook collections — there is something here for everyone, and most of the recipes are easy to prepare and appealing to a wide group.

Usability: As mentioned this is a cookbook intended to be used. Ingredients include metric measurements and are in a bold font and clearly separated for different elements of the recipe. Durand specifies the size and type of dish necessary, and instructions are both numbered and include a line break between steps. Omitting unnecessary white space, some recipes flow onto the next page so readers should be sure to read the recipe in full before starting to cook.

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