That’s a serious question. I have no idea how casseroles are made. When I was growing up, it seemed like everybody’s mom made casseroles, except mine. Mine was hampered by both a lack of imagination and five kids with varying tastes, so she came up early on with her Foolproof Menu Plan, which never varied, except on Sundays:
Mondays, leftovers; Tuesdays, hot dogs; Wednesdays, spaghetti; Thursdays, hamburgers; Fridays, something potato based, usually either french fries or potato pancakes. Fridays and Sundays were Dad’s days to cook, so unless he’d been fishing, potatoes were the only game in town. On Saturdays we had “mini-pizzas,” those English-muffin things with two strips of mozzarella covered with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of oregano. Two per serving.
Sundays were really adventurous, since, as I said, Dad was cooking, and Sunday dinner was a big deal. We often had stuffed cabbage — Dad’s recipe didn’t allow for niceties such as browning out the meat in advance or tomato sauce, so his stuffed cabbage was pretty gross, but we ate it. Or Dad’s version of Chicken Fricassee: dredge the chicken in flour and boil it. Lots of meatloaf, of course, and when I was a teenager, Dad somehow discovered roast beef, which was to die for.
Nowhere on the menu was a casserole ever to be seen.
So I was going to ask, when I remembered that you can find out pretty much anything on the internet these days (scary thought). So I looked up casseroles. And I found this: Pretty much every recipe starts with, “Brown the meat.” Whatever the main course, you always start by browning it. Then you put it into an oven-proof dish and add either potatoes, pasta, or rice, and a sauce. Then you bake the living daylights out of it.
And I realized: I’ve been making casseroles for most of my married life. Just not in the oven. Take tonight’s supper, f’rinstance: Turkish Rice, a recipe I picked up while living in Germany. Cook one or two large onions in olive oil until they’re brown, along with a couple of cloves of garlic. Add ground beef, and cook until that’s brown. Sprinkle in some thyme. Add a small (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce, fill it once with water, and pour that in, too. Then add in 1/2 cup of rice and a bouillon cube, and cook the whole thing for half an hour. On the top of the stove.
Now I feel much better. I haven’t missed the Great American Casserole Bake-Out after all. I just don’t bake it.