Thursday, March 25, 2010

Casseroles-A little history

This series of posts came from a request from Andrea and Matthew...I believe that Andrea's statement was that she couldn't stomach the idea of the casserole recipes that she was finding that directed her to open up a can of tuna fish and a quart of here is the beginning of the CheffyBabbles....

 (pictured here...Chicken, Spinach and Artichoke Casseroles for 1000 pp)

Cassaroles as we know them today came into light early in the 1900’s, meaning a dish that could be cooked in one pot, generally in earthenware over or in an open hearth. The word casserole, as a noun, comes from the French, meaning ‘saucepan’

In the 16th century (stories vary if this was during Aztecan rule or after) the Aztecans had a dish called “Budin Azteca” which translates into “Pudding of the Aztecs” but is actually one of the first references that I have found that resembles a casserole-type dish. I have served Budin Azteca in several restaurants that I have managed, including on the menu when I was a guest at the International Gourmet Festival in Puerto Vallarta in 2004. I love this dish…The Spanish were very particular about their casserole type dishes, including Spain, Mexico, and most definitely Cuba.

In this series I will share a recipe for a Shrimp Cassarole that was sent to me by my good friend, a cooking instructor/food writer and fellow culinarian Sonia Martinez that I have made on several occasions that is very simple and  just spectacular.

Antonin Careme, the grandfather of modern cookery (1784-1833) has documented several types of casserole dishes, all of which contained rice. Careme’s casserole was cooked rice that was then shaped into small ovals or rounds, topped with a clarified butter and baked. Once the crust was formed on these mounds of rice, the centers were scooped out and filled with a savory filling and generally served with duchess potatoes as a side course.

In 1903, Chef Adolphe Meyer had included several casserole dishes in his book “The Post-Graduate Cookery Book” which basically was a Chicken Stew with potatoes and aromatic vegetables, much like today’s Beef Stew. (New York : Caterer Pub. Co., ©1903.)

According to LaRousse’s Gastrominique from the early 1960’s it states that cassaroles in France were generally rice dishes that were accompanied by some sort of protein and cooked in a ‘cassarole dish’ consisting of two or more ingredients. Although it does not describe this vessel I am assuming that they are referring to a lidded casserole dish much like the one that we use today or perhaps in some sort of dutch oven that could withstand the heat of hot coals.

Today’s version, which can include practically any meat, fowl, seafood, vegetable, root, grain, pasta or whatever probably came into play during World War II when women were the American workforce to simplify matters in the home.

Stay tuned, still a lot more CheffyBabbles to come about Cassaroles...


Sonia said...

I'm honored, Cheffy!

Andrea said...

Wow Cheffy.
Thank you so much for this history and insight. Isn't it amazing what we can learn and absorb these days. I had know clue that the Aztecs where a pioneer in cassaroles. I really appreciate the history lesson and cannot wait to read more.

PS The chicken, spinach and shrimp cassarole looks pretty tasty. =)