01/05/2009

Quick and easy bread casserole

Hot bread-based dishes like this one are a popular party food in Iceland. I have rarely attended a birthday party, graduation, or other get-together in the last 10 years or so where the hosts didn’t serve at least one hot bread dish, either a stuffed bread roll or a casserole.

These dishes generally contain cheese, usually either mushrooms or asparagus (often both), and sometimes chopped bell peppers or crushed pineapple. In the beginning the sauce was usually a can of Campbell’s condensed mushroom or asparagus soup mixed with cream, and the dish was topped with cheese, but these days the sauce is usually made from scratch, using some combination of:
  • melted white or blue mould cheese (e.g. Camembert or Brie), or
  • melted flavoured block cheese, or
  • cream cheese, or
  • cheese spread
mixed with cream and/or mayonnaise and the liquid from the mushrooms and/or asparagus.

Protein is usually provided in the form of ham or shrimp, but chicken can be used as well.

The spices vary. I have seen recipes that use sweet paprika like this one, but also curry powder, Season-All, or garlic. This is the first and only dish of this kind I have tasted that uses mustard as a flavouring, and I have to say it stands out for that reason, especially if you use hot Dijon-style mustard. However, not everyone likes hot mustard, so if you want a crowd pleaser, use sweet mustard instead, or leave it out altogether.

Fresh substitutions can be made for the canned mushrooms and asparagus, in which case don’t forget to prepare some mushroom and asparagus stock to replace the liquid from the cans. Water will not do as a replacement for the liquid, and you will lose some flavour if you use extra cream or milk instead of the liquid.

The recipe:

  • 50 ml cream
  • 200 g mushroom-flavoured cheese spread
  • 1 tbs mayonnaise
  • 1 small can green asparagus, liquid included
  • 1 small can mushrooms, liquid included (looks better with whole small button mushrooms, but the big sliced ones taste the same)
  • 2 tbs mustard. The original recipe says to use sweet mustard, but I like the bite Dijon mustard adds to the dish
  • 3-4 slices of bread. I prefer whole wheat, but white is fine too. Crusts may be kept or removed according to taste.
  • 150 g chopped ham (vegetarians can use tofu or just leave it out altogether)
  • Sweet paprika powder

Mix everything together in a saucepan except the bread, ham and paprika. Heat through (do not boil) and stir to mix well. Tear the sliced bread into pieces and put in the bottom of a casserole dish or small lasagna pan (don't line it completely, just sprinkle the bread over it). Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the ham. Pour evenly over the bread, sprinkle a little paprika over the top, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 200°C (180°C if you have a convection oven). Serve in the casserole dish/lasagna pan.

This dish also makes a nice little meal for 2-3 people, served with a fresh salad.

Variation:
You can use the sauce as a filling for a bread roll, in which case substitute the roll for the sliced bread, spread the slightly cooled filling on the roll and roll it up, then mix together:
  • 2 stiffly whipped egg whites,
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (e.g. Gouda or Monterey Jack)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika powder,
and spread over the top and sides of the roll and bake at 180°C until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

This dish can be frozen before baking and popped in the oven when needed.

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

Have you any suggestions on substitute for mushroom cheese for those who aren't able to obtain it? I keep trying to figure something out to substitute for the great flavoured cheese spreads, but I have yet to come up with a good idea.

This is very similar to my mother-in-law's recipe which I keep forgetting to ask for; I'll have to try yours next time we need party dishes.

Bibliophile said...

Rebecca, aren't you located somewhere in the USA?

The only substitute I can think of that you can find in the US is Campbell's condensed mushroom soup (which is how these dishes were originally made) plus some Velveeta. The soup should give you the mushroom flavour and the Velveeta the thickness and texture.

BTW, I am trying to find the original recipe with the Campbell's soup and will post it when I do.

Canarybird said...

Hi Jo...
If you make this again could you please add a photo to the recipe. It sounds like an interesting dish....would just love to see what it looks like.
You have some great recipes! regards,
Sharon.