Use it Up: The Casserole

Serves 4 as a side | Got a bunch of things in the fridge that need to be used up? Turn ’em into a casserole!

casserole in baking dish

Last night I needed a quick dinner, but also had a bunch of ingredients that needed to be used up. I pulled them all out onto the counter to consider my options.

I had leftover roasted chicken, chopped kale, fresh thyme, a russet potato, mascarpone cheese, a hunk of goat’s milk gouda and some crispy onions. Once I considered it, I realized that they’d all taste pretty good together, and that it was time for a good ol’ fashioned casserole. Casseroles are a wide diversity of things, but essentially, it’s a dish that’s a combination of things baked together in the oven. A quick web search came up with a list of the five components of a casserole: starch, protein, vegetables, sauce, and cheese. 

From the collection of bits in my fridge, I had all 5 elements! I had chicken for protein, kale for vegetable, the potato for starch, and a little hunk of cheese. That mascarpone was going to have to carry things as the sauce, but it’s super thick. I thinned it down with a bit of milk, and added salt, black pepper, and one minced garlic clove. 

Because the chicken is already cooked, the other ingredients should be as well, so that this dish essentially just warms up in the oven. Pierce the potato all over with a fork and microwave it for 4 minutes, and blanch the kale to take the raw edge off. I decided to grate the potato to ensure a quicker cook.

assembly of a casserole

The sauce helps everything to hold together, and could be some sour cream, a yogurt-mayonnaise mixture, any vegan substitute, or even some leftover pureed soup! Combine all of the ingredients except for the cheese in a bowl and mix well to incorporate. Butter a small casserole dish and press the filling into the dish.

cooked casserole

Sprinkle grated cheese (or some breadcrumbs sauteed with coconut oil for a vegan option) on top of casserole, and top with crispy onions. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes, or until the sauce starts to bubble around the edges, and the cheese is melted. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then dig in!

Joshna is a chef, author & activist who cares a lot about people's relationship with food. She works to rebuild food systems in public institutions putting hospitality and sustainability as a top priority.

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