Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cheesy Sausage and Fennel FREEZABLE Casserole - 52 Church PotLuck Main Dishes

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Meat and Potatoes!

Plus a few extras (tomatoes and the AMAZING taste of Fennel), all with a little hint of Swiss Cheese.  And it doesn't take too much effort to make two of these at the same time, freeze one and pre-cook dinner for a day when you are busier than usual.  Easy to prepare...


So... if you want to double up and freeze a casserole for later (or divide in half for a smaller meal now and one for later), this freezes perfect. Here's a few tips

First, be sure the actual baking dish is freezer to oven safe. Those ubiquitous Pyrex brand clear dishes work best. You can also use a Foil disposable pan to freeze and bake, then transfer into a presentation dish to serve.

Second, always best to thaw the casserole in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before baking. You can bake a frozen casserole right from the freezer. But the edges will be baked more crispy than the center by the time it is finished. To go straight from freezer to oven to table, just increase the baking time by 30 minutes. But again, you will have better results if you plan ahead and thaw the meal as much as possible. Leaving the casserole out on the counter for 2 hours (covered with the foil) also helps. The casserole will not be thawed completely but will cook more evenly. If you do this, cook for another 20 minutes. As usual, but even more so, keep an eye on the dish as it cooks. Once the liquid is bubbling and the top is crispy crunchy, the dish is done no matter how much time you cook.

Third, 60 days... Two Months. NO MORE... Prepare and freeze, but date the dish. Cook and serve within 60 days for best results. Any longer and you will have freezer burn and the dish will start to turn on you. Personally, I am a 30 day guy, but I have baked these right at 60 days and it was fine.

OK.. Read over the recipe. The freezing tips are in italics. Enjoy and let me know what you think of this rather unique take on a meatloaf!!

OK... Here's what I did...

Cheesy Sausage
and Fennel

  • 2 TBS Olive oil
  • 1-1/2 Pound Italian Sausage Links, sliced
  • Pinch Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Medium Fennel Bulb, cored and thin sliced, separating rings
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 1 Pound Russet Potatoes, sliced and diced
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans Diced Tomatoes
  • 6 Ounces Swiss Cheese, freshly
  • 2 TBS (divided) Chopped Fresh Herbs (I used Basil)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9X13 casserole dish with non stick spray.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add the Olive Oil. Add Sausages and cook, turning every 30 seconds for 10 minutes until browned with charred edges. Remove from pan leaving drippings and allow sausages to drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  3. Add the Fennel slices to the drippings and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the Garlic, Fennel Seeds and diced potatoes. Reduce heat to medium. cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir, recover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the White Wine and simmer for about 5 minutes (uncovered).
  6. Add the tomatoes with the liquid and stir into the pan. Increase heat to medium high, simmer uncovered until the tomato juices have been absorbed into the vegetables.
  7. Add the Sausages back into the pan and fold to mix.
  8. Transfer everything into the prepared casserole pan and sprinkle the cheese on top. Add 1 TBS of the fresh herbs.
  9. At this stage, I froze a smaller casserole dish filled with the cooked Mac and Cheese. ... cover the freezer casserole with Aluminum Foil, pushing the foil down so there is as little air between top of casserole and the foil as possible (prevents freezer burn). Pop in the freezer. When you want to cook this, just transfer to the refrigerator 24-48 hours before you plan to thaw and cook. If you do not have the time to thaw in the refrigerator, thaw in the microwave slowly. This dish needs to be completely thawed before re-cooking. Be sure to date the dish and use within 2 months. Once thawed, cook as directed below.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, until warmed throughout (if baking a cold dish (thawed from the freezer), bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees).
  11. Add a sprinkling of additional herbs, serve HOT and ENJOY!


This recipe has been added to my growing list of "52 Church PotLuck Dishes"!

A list of something NEW worthy of being shown off at a neighborhood BYODish (Bring Your Own Dish) Party, a Family special occasion dinner, Any Big Holiday Gathering or of course that glorious day when you bring a dish to share with your Church family...

Ages ago, literally almost a half century ago I was listening to our pastor talking about a PotLuck Dinner. It happened to be scheduled around a church work day when we were expected to weed, polish and do general cleaning and maintenance around the church (you know, back in the day when there were no no-wax floors and church pews smelled of Old English furniture polish). I am of course paraphrasing, but as I recall the pastor said,

"A potluck, like a church requires work. At a potluck everyone is expected to contribute.. At a church no one should come empty handed and no one should leave unfed".
I will confess that in my youth I brought more store bought plastic spoons and forks than I ever brought covered dishes and crock pots of fresh made love and caring delights. But now that I have become a hobbyist cook, I occasionally am reminded of those days and people from my youth. I reminded and I do wish that I could drop a dish of some new creation on those old tables at my fondly remembered Liberty Baptist Church.  Tables covered with newspapers and loaded with God's bounty prepared with love and caring... Enjoy


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1 comment:

  1. Love fennel. It is definitely unutilized vegetable. Awesome fix and freeze casseroles. Thanks for sharing.