by Sybil PrattFebruary, 2005
Bringing a covered dish to gatherings both festive and commemorative church suppers, community events, fundraisers is a time-honored tradition as American as apple pie. Warm and comforting though they can be, many of these one-dish wonders have become bland and boring. Now, the fine folks at America's Test Kitchens have decided to put the vim and vigor back into the venerable casserole by collecting recipes and testing them over and over again, as only they can, until they find the "best" version of each. The result is Cover &and Bake, with more than 200 recipes for casseroles, pot roasts, skillet dinners and slow-cooker favorites. These seasoned specialists don't rely on gluey canned soups or jarred sauces; instead they add sparkle by using fresh ingredients, quality cheeses, herbs and spices. For instance, they breath new life into Turkey Tettrazini, and its ever-popular cousin Tuna Noodle Casserole, with an easy, made-from-scratch mushroom sauce and a crunchy topping of fresh bread crumbs (sandwich bread in a food processor) and butter. You'll find the same savvy approach to classics like Macaroni and Cheese and Shepherd's Pie, and to the new and ethnically diverse Moroccan Spiced Chicken and Apricot Stew, Pork Vindaloo, Baked Ravioli Putanesca. Each recipe has a fascinating description of its evolution and testing, make-ahead instructions, storage and reheating specifics. If you want foolproof and fabulous, this is the program to get with.