I admit it – I cook with Campbell’s soup! Are you a foodie-friend shooting me a withering look of disdain? Pity? Whatever. Some of us can’t cook Julia Child every night. And yes, some of the dishes from “Treasury of Campbell’s Recipes,” a cookbook of my mom’s from the early ’90s, have names like “Easy Chicken Paprikash” as if “easy” were a flavor. Not to mention “Shortcut Tuna Lasagna” and “Foolproof Beef and Broccoli” and “Everyday Broccoli Cheese Chicken.” But last night, I made “Turkey Tetrazzini.” A nice, moderately sophisticated name that doesn’t even have “casserole” in it – although that’s just what it is.
A word on casseroles wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the essential reading – MFK Fisher’s “Neither Censure Nor Disdain.” The essay appeared in the fabulous anthology “Secret Recipes: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink.” Fisher begins her contemplation of this most common American dish as such:
Yet, the “Turkey Tetrazzini” was created in America. San Francisco, in fact, in the early 1900s. Apparently, it was named after Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian opera star. (When I say “apparently,” I mean according to Wikipedia.) I guess the name stuck. Suits me – a quarter of my family is Italian and I like to believe us Italians have made big and lasting contributions to this country.
The key ingredients are Campbell’s condensed Cream of Mushroom soup and turkey leftovers – perfect for the season, right? You mix that with milk, Parmesan cheese, onion, sour cream and zucchini (but I substituted eggplant from a local Japanese market). Then add cooked spaghetti, spoon it all into a Pyrex dish and stick it in the oven for half and hour. It was delicious – a total comfort food made elegant with cilantro garnish.
I am reminded that casseroles need not stand for mediocrity. How can they, when “casseroles are here to stay for a long time,” as Fisher suggests? She writes:
* * *
Consider this the first in a series about the food I cook called “Lotus Kitchen.” Be warned: there just may be more Campbell’s.