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Thursday, April 25, 2019

An apology…and my family’s favorite casserole

Last week on “Judy’s Stew” I blogged about fixing Doris’ casserole, a family favorite, for a houseguest and promised the recipe on Thursday’s “Gourmet on a Hot Plate” blog. Trouble is, I never did the blog. We were busy entertaining our guest, and when I blogged, I forgot all about the casserole and blogged about the day’s events. Mea culpa. So here it is: ta-da, the recipe for Doris’ Casserole.

For those who didn’t read last week’s blog, here’s the back story. This was served to me at a dinner party nearly fifty years go by a woman named Doris. She called it Mrs. America Beef Casserole. Our husbands were training together as residents, and after residency I didn’t see much of Doris. Once when I did mention how much my family likes the dish, she barely remembered the casserole or the dinner party. I gave the recipe to a friend who insisted the noodle layer should come first. I assured her it shouldn’t. Another friend calls it American lasagna.

This is supposed to feed six, but it disappears quickly, so I sometimes make a double batch. It freezes beautifully. A bit of trouble to make, so I think of it as making two separate dishes—the meat layer, followed by the noodle layer.

Doris Casserole

Meat layer:

1 lb. ground beef

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed in garlic press

2 tsp each sugar and salt (I cut back to one tsp. on those, but sugar is important in tomato-based sauces—my mom taught me years ago it sort of rounds it off.)

Pepper to taste

Brown ground beef in skillet. Drain grease and return to skillet. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes, until it thickens a little.

Spread in a 9 x 13 pan.

Noodle layer:

5 oz. egg noodles  (approximately—they don’t come in this size pkg.)

3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (here again, you have to fudge; cream cheese doesn’t come in 3 oz. pkg. anymore, and I use half an 8 oz. package)

1 c. sour cream

6 green onions chopped, with some of the tops included


1-1/2 c. grated cheddar

Cook egg noodles and drain. While the noodles are hot, stir in cream cheese, sour cream, and green onions. Spread evenly over meat mixture. Top with grated cheddar, bake 35 minutes at 350 or until bubbly and cheese is slightly browned.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Eggplant Parmesan

Years ago I used to fix Eggplant Parmesan (or Parmigiana if you prefer)—it was one of my favorite “company” dinners. Instead of layers of sliced eggplant and meat sauce, I used halved eggplant shells as dishes and piled the filling in. But then along came four children who must have consulted about the matter, because they uniformly rejected eggplant. I admit that it’s one of those touchy things—you either like it or you hate it, and I have known people who were allergic to it. So I took it off my list, lost the recipe in my great downsizing, and occasionally thought about it wistfully.

When I joined Imperfect Produce, I impulsively ordered an eggplant, mostly because they looked so sleek and pretty. Then serendipity hit—I found a recipe online by Michael Chiarello (a chef whose work I admire). He called it “Mom’s stuffed eggplant,” but it was the same principle as what I’d done years ago. A friend was coming for dinner who I was pretty sure would eat eggplant, so I fixed it. But of course I had to fiddle with the recipe a little. Here’s what I did:


1 eggplant

Olive oil

½ lb. ground beef

Salt and pepper

1small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp. dried basil

1 cup grated Pecorino (I like it better than Parmesan)

¼ c. seasoned bread crumbs

1 egg

Note: Chiarello’s recipe called for a red pepper but bell peppers are among the few things I never eat, never cook with. Feel free to add it in with the garlic and onion


            Remember slicing eggplant and frying it, then draining it—the whole things was a mess, and eggplant soaks up oil more than anything. This is easier—slice the eggplant in half and hollow out the shells, leaving enough meat inside so that each half will hold its shape. Dice the meat you’ve removed and fry in olive oil—don’t use any more oil than you have to. Set aside to cool.

Brown onion and garlic in a bit of olive. When the onion is limp and slightly browned, add the hamburger and brown, breaking it up into small chunks. Stir frequently so the onion doesn’t burn.

In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup cheese, bread crumbs, basil, and egg. Mix thoroughly and then stir in the eggplant and the meat-and-onion mixture.  Pile this mixture into the carved-out eggplant shells (you will have leftover meat mixture, so just put it in a small oven-proof dish to bake along with the eggplant halves).

Top generously with more pecorino. Bake at 350o for 30 minutes. Watch carefully that the top of the eggplant halves aren’t too close to the heating element in your toaster oven—the cheese topping will burn. In fact, that cheese is sort of your guide as to when the dish is read—watch for the cheese to not only melt but darken a bit.

Enjoy with crusty baguette slices and a green salad. My guest loved it, and said, “You notice I never say, ‘Let’s go out to eat.’ Your dinners are too good.” The kind of praise I love to hear.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pan bagnat – sort of

Pan bagnat is the street taco of Nice, France, a sandwich layered with the ingredients of the classic French salade nỉ«oise. The recipe I have used and liked calls for chicken, but good albacore tuna is more traditional. The bread is usually a small round loaf (the French pain de campagne). Because it’s a made-a-day-ahead recipe, pan bagnat is great for company. You just whisk it out of the fridge and serve with a salad.

Like many folk foods or foods of the street, pan bagnat is flexible—you can substitute, and when I recently made it for supper for two, I did just that. All the round loaves I found at Central Market were way too big, and I remembered I had ciabatta in the freezer. It worked just fine.

Then I got out the rotisserie chicken breast I’d bought for the sandwiches, but it turned out to be a rotisserie turkey breast, so that’s what I used. A sliced hardboiled egg is sometimes included in the sandwich, but I knew my dinner guest was traumatized by eggs in childhood and does not eat them. So I guess what I’m saying is “Here’s a basic recipe. Take it where you want.” The only hard and fast rule that may be hard on the American palate is “No mayonnaise.”


Rotisserie grilled chicken or canned albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil)

Round loaf of artisan bread

1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. anchovy paste

1 garlic clove, pressed


2 sliced tomatoes

sliced red onion to taste

Sliced hard-boiled egg (optional)

Romaine lettuce leaves

Slice the bread in half horizontally and pull out all the bready insides; discard or freeze to use for bread crumbs, etc.

Drizzle anchovy/lemon sauce over top and bottom of bread. You may want to add a bit of softened butter to make it more of a paste that will spread nicely on the bread. Line bottom of the bread with capers, drained.

If using chicken or turkey, slice into slivers If using tuna, drain well and break into chunks. Place the meat on top of the capers. Top with remaining ingredients.

Put the top on and smash it down with your hands to flatten. Wrap in foil and put in fridge overnight, weighted down by heavy skillet or canned goods--I used a lighter skillet and two cans of green beans. Cut into wedges and serve.

My dinner guest liked it so well she decided she’d make it for an upcoming casual dinner party for about twenty people. I call that an ambitious plan.