Southerners don’t own casseroles, but we’re good at them. We bring them to potlucks and slip them into each others’ fridges when we have babies, lose loved ones, and otherwise weather those times in life when nourishment doesn’t seem like a priority. Casseroles warm our bellies and souls when nothing else will do.
Give or take a few elements, they typically involve a protein, a token vegetable or two, and an unapologetic helping of carbs cloaked in a savory sauce, topped with a generous layer of crunch.
While we’d never turn our nose up at solid standbys like the tuna noodle or mac and cheese, we think there’s room in the casserole canon for some fresh takes. Because, newsflash: it’s been a generation or two since we’ve been at the mercy of frozen peas. Hello fennel, black kale, and fingerling potatoes! Still, we’ve stayed true to the defining characteristic of the genre—that is, unfussy, mobile, and soul-satisfying.
So butter a shallow baking dish (remember more surface area equals more crunch), or better yet, two. Give one to a neighbor and stick the other in your freezer for an evening when getting dinner on the table is a daunting prospect. There’s comfort in knowing that all you have to do is turn on the oven, pour a glass of wine, and bake until bubbly.