The French are credited with “inventing” the casserole, both the meal and the dish in which it is generally cooked. There are many recipes and there is an old joke about a casserole requiring cream of mushroom soup to be authentic. They go by other names like hotpot, ragout, and the British version called a bake.
It appears that the word means “sauce pan” and comes from ladle or a common pot from which everyone shared the meal. Their origins have been traced back to the 1200s in Europe and the concept brought to the United States by Thomas Jefferson. The idea really took hold in our country in the late 19th Century inspired by the immigrants. Popular during depressions and both World Wars because of their ability to stretch a meal and the economy with which they could be prepared. Note that there are serious debates about whether lasagna and mac and cheese are casseroles.
Preparation is usually pretty simple and because they are easy to put together, they are a popular evening meal. Just be sure the cook time is correct. Too long in the oven and you can find it becomes hard and chewy. Too little time and you face underdone poultry and everything else a watery mess. They can be cooked covered or uncovered depending on whether you like the top soft or crunchy.
- 8 Chicken Breasts
- 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 1 package Cream Cheese (8 ounces)
- 1 package dry Italian Salad Dressing
Combine mushroom soup (undiluted), cream cheese, and Italian dressing packet and mix well. It is a little thick so you might consider using a blender.
Place the chicken pieces in a shallow pan and pour the mixture over it. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes if the chicken has been deboned and 1 hour if the chicken is bone in.
Serve over rice or pasta; add a side of seasonal vegetables; accompany with a crisp salad and optional crusty bread. Serves 8 adults or two hungry teenaged boys.