Cooking Cove: Casseroles play convenient roles

Cooking Cove: Casseroles play convenient roles

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

By Barbara Beltrami

It’s that frenzied time of year when the imminent holidays take huge chunks out of not just our wallets but our time. For many of us, preparing complicated and time-consuming meals is out of the question, and it’s either takeout or something quick but hearty that can be shoved in the oven while we scramble around to attack the holiday chores. This is when casseroles can be the answer. They’re meals that the kids enjoy and can even pitch in to help prepare (if you can pry them away from their iPhones and video games). Casseroles can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen, then reheated. Here are a few that are my favorites.

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


1 pound elbow macaroni

1 stick unsalted butter

½ cup flour

1 quart 2% milk, heated but not boiled

8 ounces Emmenthal (Swiss) cheese, grated

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

4 ounces fontina cheese, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1½ pounds cooked lobster meat

1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 375 F. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for macaroni. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, melt all but two tablespoons butter over medium heat; reduce heat to low and, stirring constantly with wire whisk add flour, cook for two minutes, until nicely blended and a pale golden color. Still whisking, add hot milk and cook a minute or two more, until mixture is smooth and thickened; remove from heat and whisk in the cheeses, salt and pepper and parsley until well blended and smooth. Stir in cooked macaroni and lobster; transfer to greased large casserole dish or individual ramekins. Melt remaining two tablespoons butter and combine with breadcrumbs; sprinkle over mac and cheese mixture. 

Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Casserole

YIELD: Makes 8 servings


1 cup uncooked wild rice or wild rice and long-grain rice blend

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 shallot, minced

¼ cup flour

1½ cups chicken broth

1½ cups half-and-half

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin

3 cups diced cooked chicken

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook rice according to package directions; set aside. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt half the butter, then cook the shallot until opaque but not brown, about a minute or two; sprinkle in flour and whisk until just blended; add broth and half-and-half and over medium heat, vigorously whisk; when smooth, simmer about 5 minutes, and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. In medium skillet over medium heat, saute mushrooms in remaining butter; add, along with chicken and rice, to butter-flour mixture; thoroughly combine and turn into 2-quart greased casserole. Bake about 30 minutes, until bubbly and barely crispy on top and garnish with parsley.  

Bean and Corn Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 green frying pepper, diced

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon chili powder

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

One 28-ounce can + one 14-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

One 14-ounce can corn kernels, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat oven to 350 F. In large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil; add onion, garlic and frying pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and chili powder and stir until blended. Stir in tomatoes and their juice and over medium heat, bring to a boil; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in beans, corn, salt and pepper, thyme and parsley, and transfer to greased two-quart casserole. Bake until bubbly, about 40 minutes; sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 more minutes. Garnish with cilantro before serving.