It’s almost Thanksgiving in the US, so I asked my dearest friend to help me invent casseroles that epitomize the season. In the name of inclusion, we decided to go by region, but since we’ve only lived in four states together, things may have gotten a bit out of hand for the regions we’ve never visited.
That said, it’s all done with love. So now, without further ado, I give you our Thanksgiving casseroles, arranged by regional popularity.
(Make and eat at your own risk.)
THE NEARLY VEGETARIAN NEW ENGLAND CASSEROLE
Peel and cube some butternut squash. Boil and mash the hell out of it. Add some cinnamon. It’s November. Don’t act like you’re above that.
Roast some autumn vegetables. The variety is up to you. If you’ve never had an autumn vegetable, carrots, potatoes, turnips, onion, or zucchini should do you right. Spread the mashed squash over the roasted veggies. Bake it until the squash gets crispy. Once it’s ready, it should look a little like a rusty shepherd’s pie.
Grate some Vermont cheddar on the top, and douse in cranberry juice, then scoop it drippy over your choice of fish. If you’re a Maine-iac, that’ll be lobster, but if you’re closer to us in coastal Massachusetts, your only choice is bacon-wrapped scallops.
THE MID-ATLANTIC STARCH-MEAT GLUT
Make pierogi however you want. Boiled. Fried. Deep-fried. Grilled. Baked. Roasted on a spit. With or without onions. With or without chives. (Resist making taco salad.)
Once they’re hot, coarsely chop the pierogi while your best friend butters a pan. In the buttered pan, layer the pierogi. Over that, add chunks of scrapple. If you’re near Philly, drizzle Cheese Whiz on top, but if not, don’t fake that jawn.
Bake the whole mess and serve it with regional variations per the nearest city.
If you’re near Baltimore, add lake trout, and don’t skimp on the Old Bay.
When in New York, do as the New Yorkers do: eat it with thin crust pizza. Extra points if it’s grandma pizza for those of you into keeping score.
And if you’re in New Jersey, head to Wawa. The glut will feel right at home.
THE MIDWESTERN ONE-DISH
In the spirit of Cincinnati chili, let’s start with Italian: Chicago deep dish, piping hot, topped with elbow macaroni. Then loop back for the chili. Add curried ketchup (no condiment judgment, live your life) and grate no less than four inches of Wisconsin cheddar on top. Wash it down with a pie shake from Iowa City’s Hamburg Inn No. 2. (For those of you in Iowa not in the know, here’s a pie shake. You’re very welcome.)
Regional alteration: If you’re in St. Louis, go ahead and add your pizza, but only if it’s on top of the deep dish. This is no time for scaling back.
THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN JAMBALAYA STEW
Sauté crawdads and drop them into a pot of chicken and dumplings. Mix in collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens. Cook off the remaining water. Replace the water with bacon fat. Ladle on and around a rack of ribs. Season with cajun spices. Sprinkle the top with pinches of crumbled cornbread. Apologize to your arteries and eat dessert: sweet potato casserole with marshmallows topped with your state’s name carved into Cool Whip, everyone’s favorite non-dairy whipped topping. And, if you want, add some sugar.
THE SOUTHWEST FRITO BURRITO PIE (AKA: “WE’RE SORRY, MEXICO”)
This is exactly what it sounds like (we all know Frito pie, right?), but, you know, with extra guacamole. And heartburn, probably. Pairs really well with the Pepto-Maalox-Tums-Pepsid-Prilosec casserole.
THE WEST. A LIST. (DON’T EAT THIS.)
Bison burger. Pig testes (also known as calf fries). A mountain. Fricasseed salmon. Fish eggs, also fricasseed. If you’re in California, add free-range, organic chicken. If you’re in Southern California, add road runner meat. But if you’re on the east coast, and want this “California-style,” add lettuce, tomato, and onion. And if you’re eating this anywhere else— Actually, don’t eat this at all.
ALASKAN AND HAWAIIAN CASSEROLES
As Thanksgiving is the only time of year we acknowledge the Native Americans in a nearly universally positive (albeit whitewashed) light, here’s a reminder of the leagues of people who lived here before Europeans settled in (euphemism of the century), growing and harvesting corn, beans, and squash, all of which many of us eat on Thanksgiving.
And that’s it! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Happy eating and napping!
If you have food to donate this year, including unused ingredients you didn’t wind up using for Thanksgiving, check out Feeding America. They’ll help you find the food banks nearest to you and get meals to those who need them this season.