On the night before the presidential election, author Emily Farris was running around the kitchen of her parent’s home in Kansas City, MO, making a five-cheese casserole concoction known as cheese love, with her sisters.
It’s one of the featured recipes from her new book, “Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for your Oven” and the basis of a growing series of casserole-related cooking events throughout Brooklyn, highlighted by a casserole party Farris is hosting at Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Label (180 Franklin St.) on Nov. 10.
Farris says it all started four years ago when she threw her first casserole party in Brooklyn, but her love of baked dishes that can feed a crowd trace back to her childhood in barbecue country. She loved eating tuna noodle casserole and macaroni and cheese and sought to evoke similar feelings of devotion among her East Coast foodie friends after she moved to New York. The casserole parties, however, were inspired by a groundbreaking event: Martha Stewart’s prison release.
“When Martha Stewart was released from prison, my roommate and I threw a brunch party in our apartment,” Farris said. “I love Martha Stewart. She’s great. What ever the equivalent of a woman having balls, she has.”
For the release party, Farris made a macaroni and cheese casserole with several cheeses, and baked with parmesan shavings and bread crumbs. The casserole seemed to strike a nerve among the crowd, and Farris knew she was onto something.
“A total foodie snob was eating straight from the bowl and I thought, dear God, I have to introduce casseroles to east coast foodie snobs,” said Farris.
For two years, she threw casserole parties in her apartment where friends entered their baked dishes as contestants in a contest. Last year moved the event to Brooklyn Label and the event has been evolving like the cheese combinations Farris throws in her recipes. By the time registration closed this year, there were 30 entries and another 20 participants have been placed on the wait list.
Each year, there are several categories in the contest. This year, there is a meat entry, vegetable entry, a best crust category, and a non-savory entry, though judges can award special accommodation if a casserole possesses certain outstanding and unique qualities that must be recognized.
Lacey Tauber, a friend who was awarded 2007 Best Non-Savory with her Thanksgiving kuegel entry consisting of egg noodles, pumpkin pie filling, cottage cheese, cranberries, and raisins, has enjoyed participating in the contest for the past few years.
“Participating in the casserole contest is fun because, since the recipes can’t already be published, you’re forced to be creative,” Tauber said. “Hardly anyone in Brooklyn has the space to have real dinner parties, the opportunity to cook and share food with a large group is a rare treat.”
According to both Tauber and Farris, baking casseroles remind them of home and helps put them in the holiday spirit. Farris hopes to introduce healthier comfort food to the masses, particularly at a time when the economy is nearing if not already in a recession.
“You can make a casserole and feed a whole dinner party or you can feed yourself for a whole week,” Farris said.
In addition to the parties, Farris is leading several casserole classes at Brooklyn Kitchen (616 Lorimer Street) in addition to promoting her new book of recipes and constantly updating her blog on her website www.casser
“Casseroles are easy and comforting. I think it’s an accessible dish assembled without a lot of effort. It’s economic and time saving,” said Erkkinen.
On Nov. 10, Farris will host the Casserole Contest at Brooklyn Label (180 Franklin St.) at 6 p.m. Admission is free but you have to enter a casserole or volunteer to get in.
Brooklyn Kitchen (616 Lorimer St.) will also be holding several casserole classes and tastings on Nov. 20 and Dec. 3 at 6;30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.casser