Cooking tips for the caring cook.
Make-ahead casseroles are great for freezing. Pasta makes oh-so-good make-ahead one-dish meals. You can freeze everything from lasagna to hamburger-macaroni casserole - the options really are endless. Bake the dish to reheat before eating, or have it thawed and ready for the oven on busy days.
To freeze a fully baked casserole...
- Begin by pre-lining your Casserole Dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving enough of an overhang on all sides of the casserole to cover and seal the food later.
- Assemble the casserole, laying it in the lined pan and bake the casserole as directed, then cool the casserole to room temperature.
- Put the casserole in freezer just until frozen (about 1/2 to 1 hour and it's not necessary to seal it up for this short freezing time).
- Once the casserole is frozen, use the excess foil overhang and seal airtight.
- Double wrap the foil wrapped casserole in freezer proof plastic bags, label, date it, then freeze the casserole until ready to use.
- Colors tend to fade in slow cooked foods, but garnishes such as chopped fresh parsley, chives, tomatoes, red bell peppers, cheese, or sour cream can add much visual appeal to your casserole.
- For pasta casseroles that call for onions and celery, add the vegetables to the boiling water along with the pasta. This technique cooks them until tender and only uses one pan. It also saves any oil (say "fat") you may have used sauteing.
- For improved cheese melt, keep casseroles covered during the entire baking time.
- Stir cheese into sauce when preparing casserole dishes for better results and melt.
- It's usually best to use fresh vegetables in your casseroles, but not always convenient. If you use peas, use frozen, not canned because canned peas get very mushy when baked for more than a short period of time.
- Ordinary masking tape makes great freezer tape. You can write on it with anything, it stays on the containers in the freezer and it peels off easily without scrubbing.
To thaw and reheat your casserole...
- Remove the wrapping and place the frozen casserole back into the dish in which it was baked in; cover and defrost the casserole in refrigerator overnight.
- When reheating, cover and reheat the casserole in a 350 degree oven. To test for doneness, insert a knife in the center of the casserole. When the knife is hot to the touch when removed from the casserole, the casserole should be hot throughout.
Extra Casserole Cooking Tip
Place diced pieces of ham in freezer bags for use in future casseroles.