A casserole is a logical choice when you have a crowd to feed. Typical recipes call for budget-friendly ingredients, and because they're baked in one dish, casseroles are a convenient take-along for potluck suppers and buffets. Super-sizing them for a crowd calls for a little calculation and an understanding of how to work with ingredients in large amounts. With some practice, you'll be creating your own casserole dishes from scratch without a recipe.
The Art of Adjusting Recipes
In general, you can adjust a recipe to serve any number of people by adjusting the amount of the individual ingredients. To figure out the exact measurements, divide the desired number of servings -- such as 12 -- by the number of servings that the recipe makes. Then multiply the amount of each ingredient by that amount. If your recipe serves 6, for example, divide 12 by 6 to get 2, then multiply the measurement for each ingredient by 2 to make the recipe for 12 servings. Be careful when multiplying quantities for seasonings and ingredients with intense flavors -- such as sage, baking powder or alcohol -- or specific effects in a recipe. In that case, the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago suggests increasing the amounts by a factor of 1.5 if you're doubling the recipe.
A Matter of Timing
You may have to adjust the time and temperature when making casserole for a crowd, but calculating those changes isn't as easy as multiplying the ingredient amounts. The size and shape of the pan affects the amount of time it will take a casserole to heat all the way through. For best results -- and the least time adjustment -- choose a pan that will hold the same depth of food as the pan called for in the original recipe. If, for example, the casserole would be 2 inches thick in the original recipe, your adjusted recipe should be 2 inches deep in the pan you choose. Cook it at the suggested temperature, and start checking it for doneness at the time given in the recipe. For safety's sake, heat the casserole until the internal temperature at the center of the baking dish reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tips for Success
Whether you're following a recipe or creating your own, work strategically to ensure a successful dish. Fully cook meat, poultry, seafood and grains before combining them. Parboil vegetables to al dente tenderness to avoid overcooking them when you reheat the casserole. Cook the casserole covered until the last 10 minutes or so to avoid a dried-out, crusty top. Reduce preparation time and guarantee proper seasoning by using prepared sauces, or by creating your sauces in advance.
You can be sure your meal will get a great reception when you put a classic casserole dish on the table. A hearty lasagna is always welcome, and the recipe is versatile enough to adjust to most dietary restrictions. Traditional comfort foods, such as shepherd's pie and pot pie, are filling main dishes, while macaroni and cheese does double duty -- a main dish that can also fill a supporting role on the sideboard. Dress up home-style classics with top-shelf ingredients, such as lobster meat instead of chicken in your pot pie, or substitute exotic grains, such as millet or quinoa, for rice or pasta.
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Deb Powers is an avid urban gardener who works with a community collective to promote sustainable urban agriculture and build partnerships between local business owners and community organizations. Powers serves as a social media and marketing consultant for local non-profits and businesses, and is collaborating with a coffee roaster to publish a cookbook highlighting coffee as a culinary ingredient.