Few dinners can compete with a basic skillet casserole. You’ve got tasty flavor. It cooks quickly. You can use healthy ingredients. And it all cooks in one pan, meaning you’ve got less to clean up. What’s not to love?
There are several basic components, all of which mix or match quite nicely, and can also be flat-out dropped, depending on your mood, what’s in the house, yours and/or your family’s preferences, and so forth and so on. It’s not about what goes into the skillet, but how you put it in. So, let’s dive in.
You’ll want some sort of base, usually a meat, and a ground one, at that. You can also use cauliflower or pasta if you’re a vegetarian. An aromatic, such as onion or garlic, a veggie, pasta (which can be included with the meat), and some sort of liquid, usually a broth. Cheese is optional, but usually pretty tasty.
In this example, I’m using ground chicken (from Trader Joe’s) as my base, tatsoi as my veggie, fennel for my aromatic, and chicken broth for my liquid. I did not use the pasta because of the way carbs don’t like me. It may not be an issue for you. And I included cheddar because I really like it.
The next thing you’ll want to think about is flavor profile. Do you want an Asian style? Try pulling together some five-spice powder, ginger, and soy sauce. For an Italian style, use tomatoes, basil, garlic, and oregano. I made a cheesy chili sauce, which means I added salt, pepper, chili powder, and ground cumin.
Start by browning your base (unless you’re using pasta) over medium heat in the skillet with some oil. In the case of meat, once it starts browning, add your aromatic. If you’re using a veggie, such as cauliflower, as your base, you can add the aromatic to the skillet at the same time as the veggie.
Add spices while you’re in the browning phase – they taste better when cooked a little in oil first. Herbs should be added later, when you add the liquid. Stir it all up, too.
Add veggies next, then pour some liquid into your skillet casserole. Besides broth, you can add wine or vodka, or even water. Here’s when you add those dried or fresh herbs, too.
Time to simmer
Once you’ve got your liquid in, add your pasta, if you’re using it, and make sure there’s enough liquid for it to cook. This, admittedly, is not always easy to tell, but you will probably want the mix to be on the thin soupy side. With or without pasta, cover the pan and let everything cook on a very low flame, until any pasta is al dente and/or the veggies are cooked. This takes about twenty minutes.
Now, add cheese if you’re using it. You can spread a layer of it on the top and let it get melty and gooey. Or you can stir it into the liquid to make a cheesy sauce. Or you can skip the cheese. Your call. Do let things boil down a little, especially if the sauce is too soupy.
This time, I made the cheesy sauce.
And now it’s dinnertime. Now only is a skillet casserole easy to clean up after because it only uses one pan, you can also serve it in a bowl, which may or may not be easier for you to clean.