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Romancing the Casserole

October 22, 1992|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER | Cone and Snyder are cookbook authors. and

The state of the casserole is probably best described by Michael McLaughlin, author of "The Back of the Box Cookbook," who writes that most people "greet the casserole with suspicion." Perhaps it is the image of a goopy mass of who-knows-what lying beneath a steaming surface that gives casseroles their bad name.

We believe the concept is worth rethinking. We refashioned two classic casseroles, which now take 30 minutes or less to cook and are lower in fat than the originals.

Choucroute garnie is usually a hearty dish of sauerkraut, salt pork, ham and sausages. In our version, fish is substituted for the pork. We like to serve it with crusty bread or boiled or mashed potatoes.

Our Cassoulet is a thick stew traditionally made with beans and pork sausage; sometimes a piece of goose or duck confit is added. We wanted to lighten ours up, so we use a lower-fat homemade Turkey Sausage and eliminate the goose altogether.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 carrot, peeled and julienne-cut

1 medium onion, sliced

1 1/2 pounds sauerkraut, rinsed and drained well

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound thick salmon fillet (halibut or swordfish can be substituted), cut into 4 serving pieces

Herb Bread Crumb Topping

Combine olive oil, carrot and onion in 3-quart microwave-proof casserole. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on one side, and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 2 minutes.

Stir in sauerkraut, wine, parsley and pepper. Cover and microwave on HIGH 20 minutes, stirring once.

Stir sauerkraut mixture well and divide into 4 mounds, leaving center of dish open. Place 1 fish piece on top of each mound. Sprinkle with Herb Bread Crumb Topping. Cover loosely with wax paper and microwave on HIGH until fish flakes when pressed with fork, about 10 minutes.

To serve, place mound of sauerkraut with fish on top of each plate. Makes 4 servings.

Herb Bread Crumb Topping

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

Combine bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil, parsley and basil in small bowl.


8 Turkey Sausage Patties

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, drained

2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mustard Bread Crumb Topping

Place non-stick or well-seasoned iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add Turkey Sausage Patties and brown quickly on each side. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pan and cook slowly 5 to 6 minutes, breaking patties into smaller pieces after they have browned.

Meanwhile, combine olive oil and garlic in 2-quart microwave-proof casserole and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 30 seconds. Stir in beans, tomatoes, thyme, black pepper and sausages. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH until heated through, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring once.

Sprinkle Mustard Bread Crumb Topping over casserole. Cover and heat on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Turkey Sausage Patties

1 pound ground turkey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon dried sage

1/8 teaspoon thyme

Blend ground turkey, salt, pepper, basil, nutmeg, paprika, sage and thyme in bowl of food processor or mixing bowl. If you use a mixing bowl, mix with spoon or with hands. (Dip hands into cold water first to prevent sticking.) Refrigerate mixture, covered, at least 12 hours to let flavors develop.

To form patties, cut 12-inch-square of wax paper. Use 1/4-cup measure that has been dipped into cold water (to prevent sticking) to spoon out 8 portions. With wet hands, pat turkey into 3-inch patties. Place patties on square of wax paper. Fold edges of paper over patties. Cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. Makes 8 patties.

Mustard Bread Crumb Topping

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, mustard and olive oil in small bowl.

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