Beatrice Ojakangas

Recipes from the Scandinavian Chef

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Location: Duluth, Minnesota, United States


It's the Year of the Casserole

The Year of the Casserole

Yes, it is! True, the glamour factor isn’t there, but I have read this headline more than once this year: “Casseroles make a comeback as easy, quick meals for the cash-strapped.” At least in our neck of the woods, exotic ingredients like truffles, fois gras, chestnut jam, wakami and the like, much as we’d like to use them, just don’t fit into the budget. It's almost a year now since my casserole cookbook's pub date, and I've had wonderful response to it.
Published by Chronicle, The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever includes 500 comfort-worthy recipes, and each one is made with ingredients you can find in Duluth. In fact, I have tried to go beyond that. The first chapter “Basics” includes recipes for sauces that can take the place of the “cream of – “ series. Of course, I have to acknowledge that cream soup manufacturers and their creative recipe development departments should be honored for bringing casseroles to the forefront of family acceptance and they did that shortly after WWII.
If you are curious about what the original cream of mushroom soup tastes like, start by making your own beef broth (page 26). It’s not as tough as you think, as you simply simmer beef bones (they can be leftovers from a pot roast), with onion, carrots, and celery, and add salt, pepper, garlic, if you like, and herbs. Then go ahead and make the Basic Mushroom Sauce (page 22), which is what you’d use in place of the cream of mushroom soup in any favorite casserole. But, thin it with a little more of the broth and then enjoy the best tasting mushroom soup ever.
Even though we think of casseroles as wintertime comfort food, there are plenty of ideas for summer, too. June, July and August are the times when we are likely to have overnight guests, and to think of how to serve good and simple breakfasts can be a challenge. So, I thought “How about breakfast casseroles?” The beauty of breakfast casseroles is that they can be assembled the night before and popped into the oven in the morning. Here are two from my book that feature fresh blueberries that come into the market about now (or that we will soon be picking in the wild.)

Fresh Blueberry-stuffed French Toast Casserole
Assemble this simple casserole 12 to 24 hours ahead, or just before baking. For other flavors check the variations below.
Serves 4
4 large slices sourdough bread, crust removed and cubed
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
2 cups fresh blueberries
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375*F. Arrange half the bread cubes in an 8-inch square baking dish. Distribute the cream cheese cubes evenly over the top of the bread. Distribute the blueberries over the top.
2. Top with the remaining bread cubes.
3. Beat eggs, milk and cinnamon together and pour over. Bake for 35 minutes, uncovered. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Blueberry Maple French Toast
You definitely need to use fresh blueberries with this one! I made it with frozen blueberries and in baking, the blueberry juice turned the French bread and custard a sickly shade of purple.
Serves 8
1 large (1 pound) loaf of French bread, crust removed
1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese
1 cup fresh blueberries
12 large eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
1. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and spread half in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Cut the cream cheese into cubes and sprinkle over the bread. Sprinkle blueberries over evenly and top with second half of bread cubes.
2. Mix the eggs, milk and maple syrup and pour over the bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake 30 minutes longer until set. Slice and serve warm with warm blueberry sauce.
Blueberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
1cup blueberries
1. Combine sugar, water, cornstarch and butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Place over medium heat and boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Stir in blueberries, reduce heat and simmer 8-10 minutes until blueberries burst.

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Blogger hazeleyes said...

Dear Beatrice:

I've just purchased your CASSEROLE book -- B I G -- and today am making beef barley mushroom soup, adapted from your recipe for barley mushroom casserole.

I like your instructions on making beef stock and I'm going to try it because it's 'white' stock -- no endless and messy browning of bones and the veggies in the oven -- and it looks much better to me than what's in the cans we can buy at the store. That stuff is so dull, and with all the doctoring one needs to do to make it taste even adequate, why not make our own stock your way?

I have a tip, though, on making good-tasting beef stock that I received from a friend who makes delicious "meat soup". Her trick is to put the meat into her crockpot with water and simmer on low for at least 12 hours. I've done it, and the resulting stock is amazing, though it does need salt. The addition of veggies and more cooking make it soup, but the meat could be strained out and the stock used for casserole. Another way might be to use the bones and a pound or two of good ground beef, but I haven't tried that method yet.

Thank you for a delightful website. I like the Scandinavian dark rye bread recipe, have been looking for a good one for years. This looks doable.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

I am going to prepare the Pork Tenderloin Casserole with Garlic and Rosemary. How thick (or thin) should I slice the pork tenderloin?

1:59 PM  

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