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3 Must-Make Casseroles for Dinner

Sunday dinner is a time for the family to come together, enjoy a delicious meal, and get ready for the busy week ahead. Unfortunately, sometimes we run out of inspiration when it comes to food and fall into the same routine…ugh, pizza again? Betty Rossbottom's "Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish" sets out to change all of that. She has elevated the beloved bake, offering recipes and options the whole family can get enthusiastic about — because who doesn't love digging into a hot and bubbling casserole? For Sundays and beyond, we've picked our favorite three make-ahead recipes you're sure to fall in love with…but don't forget to check out the other 57 incredible dishes of pure, delectable comfort.

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Bacon Casserole

This casserole is perfect for fall, when supermarket display bins are overflowing with copper-fleshed sweet potatoes. If you’ve never used this versatile tuber in a casserole, you’ll be surprised by how much flavor, not to mention color, it will add. In this recipe, sautéed chicken breasts seasoned with sage and thyme are covered with pan-fried sweet potatoes, onion, and bacon, and then coated with a creamy white sauce. The chicken and potatoes, as well as the sauce, can be cooked ahead, so there’s no last-minute angst.

Serves 4

PREP TIME: 20 minutes

START-TO-FINISH TIME: 1 hour, 20 minutes

MAKE AHEAD: Yes

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 oz/225 g each)
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1½ tsp dried sage
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 oz/340 g sweet potatoes (see Market Note)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 5 tbsp/75 ml olive oil
  • ½ cup/120 ml reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup/60 ml dry white wine
  • 5 slices good-quality smoked bacon
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/240 ml whole milk
  • 1/3 cup/30 g grated Gruyère cheese
  • Fresh sage sprigs for garnish (optional)
  • Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)

1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F/180°C. Generously butter a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm or another shallow 3-qt/2.8-L baking dish.

2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place a chicken breast on a work surface and, with a sharp knife held parallel with the surface, cut the breast in half horizontally. Repeat with the remaining breasts. You will have 8 chicken pieces. In a small bowl, mix together the thyme, sage, 1 tsp salt, and the pepper. Set aside 1 tsp of this seasoning. Season both sides of each piece of the chicken with the remaining mixture.

3. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ¼-in-/6-mm-thick rounds. Stack several rounds on top of each other and cut into ¼-in-/6-mm-wide strips. Peel the onion, halve through the root end, and slice into ¼-in-/6-mm-wide strips.

4. Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil until hot in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to the prepared baking dish. Add the chicken broth and wine to the pan and whisk to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom. Cook, stirring, until the liquid has reduced to ¼ cup/60 ml, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour over the chicken breasts.

5. In the same frying pan set over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and, when cool, chop coarsely. Discard all but 1 tbsp of the drippings in the pan and add the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. Set the frying pan over medium heat, and when hot, add the sweet potatoes and onion and sauté, stirring, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and spoon them over the chicken. Sprinkle with the bacon. (The casserole can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding.)

6. Melt the butter until hot in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1½ to 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and the reserved 1 tsp of seasoning. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, whisking constantly, and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt if needed. (The sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate separately from the baking dish. Gently reheat over low temperature.) Drizzle the sauce over the ingredients in the casserole and sprinkle with the Gruyère. Cover the casserole loosely with a sheet of foil.

7. Bake the casserole until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the casserole for 5 minutes.

8. If desired, garnish the center of the dish with some sage and thyme sprigs before serving.

MARKET NOTE:

Two types of sweet potato are available in the United States. One has pale tan skin and light orange flesh, while the other (often erroneously labeled “yam” in the supermarket) has a darker skin and rich, copper-hued flesh. The latter variety (with its bright orange flesh) is the one I like to use in this recipe.

Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Vegetables and Golden Cheddar Crusts

If asked to choose a favorite from the hit parade of American comfort foods, chicken pot pies would top my list. The made-from-scratch pies featured here, though, are far different from the store-bought ones of my childhood. The filling, prepared with tender morsels of chicken, sau­téed butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms, all enrobed in a smooth white sauce, is spooned into ramekins, then covered with cheese-flecked pastry rounds. When baked, the golden crusts are tender and flaky, a perfect contrast to the creamy chicken and vegetables beneath.

Serves 6

PREP TIME: 45 minutes

START-TO-FINISH TIME: 2 hours, 15 minutes

MAKE AHEAD: Yes

FREEZE: Yes, before baking

Golden Cheddar Crust

  • 3 cups/385 g sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/100 g grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup/170 g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 4½ tbsp/60 g vegetable shortening, chilled and broken into small pieces
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp/90 ml ice water

Chicken and Fall Vegetable Filling

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1½ cups/215 g diced butternut squash (½-in/12-mm dice)
  • 4 oz/115 g small Brussels sprouts, bases trimmed, and quartered lengthwise
  • 4 oz/115 g small brown mushrooms (cremini) cut into ¼-in-/6-mm-thick slices
  • ½ cup/55 g thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 1½ tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups/280 g diced cooked chicken or turkey (½-in/12-mm dice; see Market Note)

White Sauce

  • 5 tbsp/70 g unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup/30 g all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups/600 ml whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. For the Golden Cheddar Crust: Combine the flour, cheddar, butter, shortening, and salt in a food processor and pulse for 15 seconds. Add the ice water and process until a loose ball of dough forms, about 30 seconds. (If you have a small-capacity processor, divide the ingredients in half and make the dough in two batches.) Remove the dough and shape it into two equal balls. Flatten each one, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

2. For the Chicken and Fall Vegetable Filling: In a medium, heavy frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the canola oil until hot. Add the butternut squash and Brussels sprouts and sauté, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more. Add the leeks, rosemary, salt, and several grinds of pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned and just tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and add the chicken.

3. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F/190°C. Have ready six 1-cup/240-ml ramekins and a rimmed baking sheet.

4. For the White Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium sauce­pan over medium heat. When hot, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1½ to 2 minutes. Add the milk, ¾ tsp salt, and tsp pepper and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the chicken and vegetables and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins.

5. On a floured surface, roll out one ball of dough to a circle about 11 in/28 cm in diameter and ¼ in/6 mm thick. Cut out three rounds that are 2 in/5 cm larger in diameter than the tops of the ramekins. (For example, if your ramekins are 4 in/10 cm in diameter, you would cut out 6-in/15-cm rounds.) You may need to gather the dough scraps and roll them out again to get three rounds. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.

6. Brush a ½-in/12-mm border around the edge of each round with some of the beaten egg (this will help the pastry topping to adhere to the ramekin). Cover each ramekin with a circle of dough (egg-brushed-side down), and press the overhang­ing dough against the sides. Make a 1-in/2.5-cm slit in the center of each crust. (The pot pies can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking. Cover and refrigerate the remaining beaten egg and whisk lightly before using.)

7. Place the pot pies on the rimmed baking sheet, and brush the pastry tops and sides with the remaining beaten egg. Bake until the tops are golden, 30 to 35 minutes (or slightly longer if the pies have been refrigerated). Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

MARKET NOTE:

You can use leftover chicken or turkey or buy a rotisserie bird. If you choose the latter, count on using more than half of the chicken.

COOKING TIP:

To make the dough by hand, mix the flour, cheddar, and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry blender or two table knives until the mixture resembles oatmeal flakes. Gradually add the water, mixing just until the dough holds together.

Saffron Rice Pilaf with Lamb Meatballs, Red Peppers, and Dates

Easy, delicious, and different is how I would describe this casserole. Petite meatballs prepared with ground lamb and seasoned with Moroccan spices are nestled into a baked rice pilaf during the last few minutes of cooking. The rice, scented with saffron, cooks to a rich, golden yellow and is accented with bits of red bell pepper and Medjool dates.

Serves 4 to 6

PREP TIME: 20 minutes

START-TO-FINISH TIME: 1 hour

MAKE AHEAD: Yes, partially

Lamb Meatballs

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb/455 g ground lamb
  • ¼ cup/30 g very finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1¼ cups/270 g long-grain rice, preferably basmati
  • ¾ cup/115 g red bell pepper cut into strips, ¼ in/6 mm wide and 1½ in/4 cm long
  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted and cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 3½ cups/840 ml reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads, crushed
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp julienned fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp julienned fresh mint
  • 2 tsp julienned lemon zest

1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F/190°C. Oil a shallow 2½-qt/2.4-L baking dish.

2. For the Lamb Meatballs: In a medium bowl, mix together the cumin, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Add the lamb, onion, and garlic and mix with two forks to combine well. Scoop 1 tbsp of the lamb mixture into your hands and roll into a small ball. Repeat until all the mixture has been used. You should get about twenty-four meatballs. (The meatballs can be prepared to this point 1 day ahead; cover and refriger­ate. Bring to room temperature at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before continuing with the recipe.)

3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the meatballs and brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

4. Spread the rice evenly in the prepared baking dish, and then scatter the bell pepper and dates over the rice.

5. Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan, covered, over medium heat until it simmers. Add the saffron, taste the broth, and season with salt if needed. Pour the hot broth over the rice. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until almost all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and carefully remove the foil. Stir in the meatballs, re-cover, and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven.

6. Combine the parsley, mint, and lemon zest in a small bowl and sprinkle over the casserole before serving.

Recipes and images via Sunday Casseroles

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