Bighearted Casseroles are a mainstay in the South. With just a few things added to a main ingredient like Chicken, Potatoes- sweet or white, Canned Green Beans or even Fruit- we can make up a Bighearted Casserole.. Dishes generous enough feed a crowd or stretch a thin budget. Bighearted Casseroles will put up with almost anything– being thrown together last minute; assembled the night before and refrigerated or even wrapped tightly in the freezer, ready when you need to take a dish. Bighearted Casseroles aren’t fussy about when to make an appearance either– they’ll be there Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. There are Classic Casseroles which can grace a fine Brunch, a High Holiday Buffet or a Ladies Luncheon with style in silver carriers- yet not be snobbish when a Bighearted Casserole is taken to a new mother, a sick friend or as part of a backyard picnic. I wish I had a nickel for every time a Casserole has saved the day for me, like the Campbell’s Chicken Casserole below.
No doubt every culture in the world has it’s own version of a ‘one pot’ meal …yet Southern women have elevated the Bighearted Casserole to an art form; Campbell’s Soup benefitted enormously from our Love of Casseroles- many Savory Casseroles use Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soups. In fact, you can tell if a Southern Lady has been tasting too many Casseroles if her ankles are swollen from the high sodium content. No one wants to admit they like Green Bean Casserole with canned fried onion rings, Poppy Seed Chicken with crushed Town House crackers or even a Tuna Casserole topped with Golden Flake Potato Chips. We do sneak around and eat them every chance we get! Ritz crackers got rich on Bighearted Casseroles! So many Casseroles have crumbled Ritz crackers on top- ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ takes on a whole new meaning. Alabama’s colorful former governor, Big Jim Folsom once stopped late at night and ate a concoction that consisted of long simmered turnip greens, hog jowl and was topped off with canned onion rings. When someone asked the name of the dish- Big Jim spoke up and said, ‘It’s called ‘Ain’t Mad at Nobody Casserole’…that’s how you feel when you’ve eaten a Bighearted Casserole, so soul satisfying, it’s hard to be mad at anybody!
Fruit Casseroles are Bighearted enough to be a delicious side for Baked Ham or Roast Turkey and can even fill in as a delicious dessert. If you have never had a Pineapple Cheese Casserole- well you missed something truly good. Topping our list here at Camellia’s Cottage is the re-discovered Apricot Casserole, which my grandmother made. She adored apricots, fresh, dried or canned. Apricot Fried Pies, a jar of re-hydrated Dried Apricots smeared on her famous Sharp Cheese Toast was the best breakfast I recall as a child. Fresh Apricots topped off Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. A bowl of Canned Apricots made a good everyday side- At Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, Mimi’s Apricot Casserole was divine. Simple to make, complex in flavor- I hope you’ll try it. For Apricot Casserole you will need:
- 1 stick of butter (melted) plus more to butter a 9×9 Pyrex dish
- 3 – 16oz cans of apricots- well drained (but not rinsed)
- 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar firmly packed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- One sleeve of Ritz Crackers crushed- (I often crush about 6-8 additional crackers)
Method– Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
- Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add crushed Ritz Crackers to this mixture. Blend well.
- Pour melted butter over crumbled Mixture to gently combine.
- In a well buttered 9×9 Pyrex dish, layer one can of apricots face side down (as shown above )
- Cover with 1/3 of the sugar/cracker/butter mixture.
- Repeat with second can of drained apricots, then top with mixture.
- Repeat again with third can of drained apricots and finish with the rest of the sugar/cracker/butter mixture.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature as a Side Dish as shown in opening photograph- Or as a delicious dessert, served warm with whipped cream! (Shown below)
Your Waistline is practically guaranteed to get Thick but it is highly unlikely that your Ankles will Swell with Apricot Casserole.
See just how Bighearted a Casserole can be! From sweet and fruity to savory and warm…they’re UmUm Good! Let me know what your favorite Bighearted Casserole is!
Love y’all, Camellia
Photograph of Chicken Casserole was credited to Campbell’s Soup on AOL images- Golden Flake Potato Chips are made right here in Alabama! The other photographs are straight from Camellia’s Cottage Test Kitchen – 🙂