There’s nothing quite like a good cooking challenge once in a while, and taking on the casserole certainly fit the bill this week. It’s something we all have a love-hate relationship with; done well, it can be a convenient one-dish meal that doubles as lunch the next day. Done badly, it’s the stuff of childhood nightmares; one’s heart can only go out to kids (and adults) whose sole thought at that point in time is probably something along the lines of "What did we do to deserve casserole night? Mother of God!"
First, a disclaimer, though: We did not set out to make the casserole sexy. That would be tantamount to making something like say, a Prius, sexy — just not happening. Delicious, yes. Sexy, not happening in this lifetime. So there, full disclosure.
That being said, though, what came out of everyone’s ovens this week looked absolutely fantastic and definitely set our collective stomachs rumbling and chops salivating. Take, for instance, Nathan Cyphert's Tuna Noodle Casserole, simple, delicious, and easy on the wallet. And, also not to be missed is Culinary Content Network member Lyndsy Hassett's Southern Shepherd's Pie Recipe, an upside down version of the traditional English dish that also gets a Southern twist thanks to cornbread. But the one that takes the cake is Arthur Bovino's winning recipe for King Ranch Chicken — its well-balanced, robust flavor makes you think "definitely not diet food," but it is indeed, a slimmed-down version all the same. Just, whatever you do, don't call it a casserole, because that's not how they roll down in Texas.
All of the recipes featured here can be made at home for about $32 or less, excluding the cost of small amounts of basic ingredients such as butter, oil, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and other dried herbs and spices. While this may seem a little high, it's because these recipes are meant to feed an army of eight to 10 hungry people. That works out to about $3 to $4 per person or less — so if you're looking for an economical way to feed a crowd, the casserole still reigns supreme.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.