The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin' in Your Oven With 100 Easy One-Dish Recipes

2011 Texas Book Festival cookbook reviews

Chews Wisely

The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin' in Your Oven With 100 Easy One-Dish Recipes

by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock
Clarkson Potter, 208 pp., $17.99 (paper)

Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock began Casserole Queens in 2006, delivering homemade casseroles to comfort-food-loving families in the Austin area. As the saying goes, you've gotta have a gimmick; Cook and Pollack's is delivering those casseroles clad in Fifties housewife-style dresses, aprons, and high heels. Such semitroubling postwar nostalgia permeates the pair's new eponymous cookbook, which features 100 casseroles promising to "put some lovin' in your oven."

The recipes vary from predictable (their signature pot pie) to tantalizing (crunchy peanut butter chocolate bars) to downright outrageous (a side dish featuring pineapple chunks, cheddar cheese, and Ritz crackers). The chicken pot pie is truly delicious, the filling seasoned perfectly with just the right proportion of tarragon to chicken and vegetables, although the puff pastry topper acted as a bit of a wet blanket. While those who are cottage-cheese averse may be dubious about the broccoli cornbread, it is a deliciously moist and tender side that wants only for a bit of crushed red pepper or diced jalapeños for some kick (this is Texas, after all). The gooey apple-butter cake made my house smell like fall, with its buttery base of yellow cake topped by a layer of cinnamon, cream cheese, and apple. Waistlines beware, though: The recipes claim a yield of six to eight servings per recipe, but that makes for some fairly enormous portions.

There's an interesting tension here between the use of convenience foods like boxed cake and cornbread mixes and canned vegetables, but Cook and Pollock anticipate resistance to those ingredients by including recipes for homemade stocks, salsas, and pie crusts at the back of the book. The method for each recipe is clearly written, eliminating any guesswork for the home cook. This user-friendliness, along with the breezy, sometimes boozy tone, ensures that The Casserole Queens Cookbook will easily make its way into heavy rotation in any kitchen.

Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock will appear at 3:30pm Sunday in the Cooking Tent.

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