In The Oven

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The third annual Casserole Party is coming to Brooklyn Label Oct. 16, and considering nine teams have already signed on, you may want to get cooking. Especially since celebrity judges Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet fame, Domino senior editor Ruth Graham, and Food Network sous chef Miriam Garro will determine the winning one-pot meal.

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It’s a lot of pomp for a humble dish, but organizer and writer Emily Farris, whose favorite rendition is a twist on her cheesy mac and corn casserole called “Seduction,” knows how the low-brow casserole can melt the hearts of uppity foodies. The Missourian (pictured) was weaned on green bean and tuna noodle casseroles, but never thought New Yorkers would appreciate them until she caught her friend’s boyfriend in the kitchen with her signature casserole, spoon in hand.

“If this total food snob likes my casserole,” she thought to herself, “other people will, too.” At a pie bake-off soon after she got the idea for the casserole party, which she’s held for the last two years in her Greenpoint apartment, inviting “teams” up to two to come bearing Pyrex. But since landing a cookbook deal (due out October 08), Farris decided to move the party to a bigger venue, double the number of teams to 30, and change the rules. This year, the casseroles have to come from original or family recipes: no cookbook copycats are allowed, because the winning dish will be included in Farris’s own book, and appear on the Brooklyn Label menu for a month.

mac.jpgSeem daunting? Farris provided a few tips for a killer casserole.

1- “Really, to be delicious, a casserole has to have some kind of fat.” (This makes it tough for vegans, who are welcome to participate — there are vegetarian and meat categories, too — but in general, the cheesier and creamier the better.)
2- “And a starch.” (Like noodles, rice, or potatoes.)
3- “You have to have moisture.” (That typically means a soup like Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom or an Imagine soup, or a homemade stock.)
4- “A crust is not required but a casserole without a crust is like a cake without icing.” (Farris likes Durkee French Fried Onions, but since they’re so hard to find in these parts she sometimes substitutes potato chips, or sprinkles parmesean on top.)
5- Use “one large white onion — I can’t think of any casserole that doesn’t call for one.” (She sometimes adds them raw, like to her tuna noodle casserole, or caramelizes them first.)

Essentially, says Farris, “it’s like a cake or a really good pie–once you make one, you can make them all.”

To enter (you have to, to attend), the details are on Farris’s blog, Casserole Crazy.

New on the homepage is a mixed-media diptych by Shane McAdams, an artist in Greenpoint and the assistant director of Caren Golden in Chelsea, who uses acrylic glue and oil solvent in his process-based paintings.

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