The French may have invented the casserole in the early 18th century, but it was the busy mid-20th-century woman who turned it into the icon of Southern hospitality. If you are taking food to a sick friend or want to impress guests at the Christmas potluck, no other dish rises to the occasion with such graceful ease, and no other dish resonates such cozy comfort. A whole lot of delicious happens when good ingredients become acquainted with one another in a bubbling hot sauce. Every home cook worth her salt has a casserole she is known for, and it is an unwritten rule that she is to take it to church potlucks and family reunions. Hungry friends and relatives wait for months for the annual potluck so they can get a generous helping of their favorite cornbread dressings, cheesy pasta dishes, and chicken pot pies. We could go on and on about the utility and versatility of this one-pot wonder, but we will leave you with this: A casserole baking in the oven promises something good, honest, and wholesome to come.
There are several reasons why a casserole is the perfect potluck dish. First, you combine all the ingredients together and bake it in one dish. Second, you can simply wait for the dish to cool, cover it, then transport the casserole to the dinner where, third, it can be served from the same dish. The most important reason, however, is that comforting casseroles are sufficient on their own; fill your plate with a meatball pasta bake or chicken and wild rice casserole and you have a complete meal. Casserole dishes are made from varied materials and come in different shapes and sizes, such as cast iron French ovens, mini soufflé dishes, and the classic and ever popular Pyrex pieces. Whichever dish you use, don’t forget to write your name on the bottom of the dish with bright red nail polish!