The Cheesy Corn Casserole I Make Every Thanksgiving

The Cheesy Corn Casserole I Make Every Thanksgiving

The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed. This edition: a corn casserole dubbed “that creamy, cheesy corn thing” by those in the know.

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday—the parade on TV, friends and family joining forces in the kitchen, and bottles of wine opened a little too early in the day. But the truth is, I didn’t grow up celebrating the holiday: I was adopted into the Turkey Day fun after moving to the US from Australia in 2000.

Over the years, I’ve squeezed tons of guests into various tiny New York apartments and tried to master heaps of turkey recipes, sides, and pies. I once cooked a 24-lb. turkey that ended up being the only thing I could fit in my oven (due to time and space constraints; thankfully, my upstairs neighbors let me cook the sides in theirs). I’ve made countless iterations of classic green bean casserole—my favorite has haricots verts, wild mushrooms, and a Parmesan béchamel. And I’ve done my fair share of riffing on my grandma’s stuffing.

But one particularly perfect side dish has stood the test of time more than any other. It’s the one that repeat visitors to my Thanksgiving soirees request year after year—a few friends go so far as to request it anytime I host them for dinner or venture out to a potluck.

What’s the comfort food in question? It’s an easy corn casserole recipe that’s an unparalleled combo of creamy and salty, and it’s easy to put together. Is it fancy? Nope. Is it absolutely delicious? Of course. Is it something you’ll want to reheat and eat straight from the Pyrex while wearing your pj’s, binge-watching holiday movies, and nursing that post-Thanksgiving hangover? Hell yes. And it doesn’t even require a box of regionally available cornbread mix to put together.

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Everything you’ll need to make “that creamy, cheesy thing.”

 

My friends call it the “creamy, cheesy, corn thing,” which fits in nicely with all the usual stars of the Thanksgiving show. Once it hits the table, and that first gooey spoonful hits their plates, everyone’s suddenly very thankful for good friends and even better carbohydrates.

 

How to make Cheesy Corn Casserole:

Start by sautéing 1 jalapeño, chopped (take out the seeds if you don’t want the green chile’s heat), and 2 cloves garlic, chopped, in a medium saucepan until they’re fragrant and just starting to soften. Add two 15-oz. cans whole-kernel corn (not creamed corn), 8 oz. cream cheese2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, a large handful of grated cheddar cheese (½–¾ cup), and about ¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Stir until it’s melty. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. At this point, I can’t help but taste-test—if I determine it needs more cheese, it gets more cheese. Pour the corn kernel mixture into a buttered 13×9″ casserole dish, then sprinkle the top with ½ cup breadcrumbs (fresh or dried), another ½ cup finely shredded parm, and a handful of chopped fresh herbs (I usually use a mix of thyme and sage, or whatever I have on hand after cooking the turkey). Bake at 375° until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the breadcrumbs are a crispy golden brown—cook time, about 15 minutes. If you are feeling extra fancy, you could toss a handful of chopped green onions or chives on top to garnish, but it doesn’t need it.

You can totally prep this ahead of time: Choose a baking dish with a lid (or cover the dish with plastic wrap) and refrigerate the casserole for up to three days, so it’s lying in wait for bake time. But do hold the breadcrumb topping until you’re ready for the oven.

It’s not the only corn casserole out there. If you’re in it for the version found on the back of a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, which one BA staffer thought was a treasured family secret, we’ve got the deets on that too. (Spoiler alert: Hers has a ton of extra melted butter.) We also have a hominy-bolstered corn pudding enriched with sour cream and laced with poblano chiles and Cotija cheese, and a creamed corn soufflé made with grated ears of fresh corn. All this to say: options abound. Still, I keep coming back to this creamy, cheesy corn thing.

 

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Brain

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Brain

Scare your friends and serve delicious brains on Halloween. This no-bake strawberry cheesecake made from plastic molds looks real. Add “blood” fruit syrup and you’ve got the spookiest dessert in town.

 

Level: Intermediate             Total: 5 hr (includes chilling and freezing times)               Active: 40 min               Yield: 8 servings

 

Ingredients:

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 sleeve graham crackers (9 whole crackers)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch fine salt

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Cheesecake:

2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (from two and a half 1/4-ounce packages)

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch fine salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 cups heavy cream

Bright red gel food coloring, for coloring the cheesecake
Strawberry Syrup:

1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise

3/4 cup granulated sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Nonstick cooking spray, for the mold

 

Directions:

Special equipment: a plastic 9.75-by-8.5-by-4-inch (7-cup) brain-shaped gelatin mold

1. For the graham cracker crust: Pulse the graham crackers, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a food processor until crumbs form. Drizzle in the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the food processor.

2. For the cheesecake: Whisk the gelatin into 1/3 cup warm water and let sit until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Pulse the cream cheese in the food processor until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Then add the granulated sugar, vanilla, salt, lemon juice and softened gelatin. Pulse until completely smooth. With the food processor running, add the heavy cream and enough food coloring to make the batter a light pink. Process until combined.

4. For the strawberry syrup: Combine the strawberries, granulated sugar, lemon juice and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer and simmer until the berries are very soft but still holding their shape. Strain the syrup, transfer the berries to a small bowl and chill. Return the syrup to the saucepan and continue cooking until thickened, about 10 minutes. Chill the syrup until ready to use.

5. Coat a plastic 9.75-by-8.5-by-4-inch (7-cup) brain-shaped gelatin mold generously with nonstick cooking spray. Pour half of the cheesecake batter into the mold, swirling the batter to cover all sides of the mold. Freeze for 5 minutes to let the batter thicken. Using the back of a spoon, spread the batter up the sides so there is a 1/2-inch-thick coating around the entire mold. Freeze for 10 minutes to set the batter.

6. Add the strawberries to the center of the mold. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the strawberry syrup over the strawberries. Evenly spread the remaining batter over the berries, pressing the batter into the mold to fill any gaps. Top with the graham cracker crumbs, pressing to create a firm crust. Place the cheesecake in the freezer until the sides are very firm and almost frozen, about 2 hours. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 2 hours before serving.

7. To unmold the cheesecake: First, carefully place the mold briefly into a bowl of hot water, then run a small offset spatula around the edge of the mold to help release the cheesecake from the sides. Invert onto a plate and poke small holes in the mold with a paring knife to help release the cheesecake from the mold. Carefully pull off the mold. Top the brain with the remaining strawberry syrup.

Witch Finger Cookies

Witch Finger Cookies

You won’t be able to take your hands off these creepy shortbread cookies – even dipping them in raspberry jam will make them look like a bunch of torn fingers!

 

Level: Easy                  Total: 2 hr                  Active: 20 min              Yield: 28 finger cookies

 

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

28 large sliced almonds

1/2 cup raspberry jam

 

 

Directions:

1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray or line with a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in the flour mixture until a dough forms.

4. Using about1 1/2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms into 5-inch-long fingers about 1/2-inch thick. Firmly press a sliced almond into the end of each finger to make fingernails. Make several horizontal cuts, about 1/4 inch deep and 1/2 inch long, in the center of each finger to make knuckles. Press the dough on either side of the cuts to shape the knuckles. Arrange the fingers on the prepared baking sheet and bake until light golden, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer the fingers to a wire rack and cool completely.

5. In a small saucepan, heat the jam over low heat until warm, about 2 minutes. Dip the blunt ends of the fingers in the warm jam and arrange on a platter.

 

Marshmallow Jack-o’-Lantern Cookies

Marshmallow Jack-o’-Lantern Cookies

These little jack-o’-lanterns are as cute as they are tasty. Placed on a chocolate wafer for crunch, these soft marshmallows can be made several days ahead of your Halloween party. But they’re so irresistible, you’ll need to hide them.

 

Before You Start:
We made ours with vanilla, but you could take this a step further by giving your marshmallows a different flavor, like orange, lemon or even chocolate. Making marshmallows is so much easier than many people think — but be extra careful when handling the hot syrup as it can cause serious burns. Store your finished treats in an airtight container for up to one week.

 

Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
powdered food coloring
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla or extract of your choice
orange sanding sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
24 chocolate wafers

 

Instructions

1. Sift together powdered sugar and powdered food color. Whisk to combine well.
2. Oil a 9x13x2 pan and dust with powdered sugar on the bottom and sides. Set aside.
3. Pour 1/2 cup of the water in the bowl of a mixer then sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand to soften.
4. In a medium saucepan, add the remaining water, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until completely dissolved.
5. Turn heat to medium-low to medium and bring to a boil. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches 240 degrees F (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer (10-12 minutes).

 

7. With the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed until white, thick and more than double its original volume (6-8 minutes).

 

8. In a separate bowl beat egg whites to stiff peaks (Image 1).
9. Add egg whites, vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of powdered food color to marshmallow mixture and beat just long enough to incorporate (Image 2).

 

10. Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth out as evenly as possible (Image 1).
11. Sift powdered sugar generously over the top of the marshmallow and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before proceeding (Image 2).

 

12. Use a knife to loosen marshmallow from edges of the pan.
13. Apply a small amount of cooking oil to a 2″ circle cookie cutter. Cut as many circles as possible from the sheet of marshmallow.

 

 

14. Using an offset spatula lift the marshmallow from the pan and slide the spatula underneath to release each of the rounds.
15. When the pan is empty, place the remaining powdered sugar back in the pan and toss the marshmallow rounds to coat all sides completely.
16. Place a quarter cup of orange sanding sugar in a plastic container with a snug-fitting lid.
17. Using a spray bottle, mist a marshmallow round on the smoothest flat surface and the sides.
18. Place the marshmallow round in the plastic container and shake to coat with sanding sugar.
19. Remove from the sugar and set aside.

 

 

20. When you have completed coating all of the rounds with sugar, pour heavy cream into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until it just begins to boil.
21. Add chocolate chips and swirl pan just a bit to even out layer and coat all chips. Let rest without stirring for 5 minutes.
22. Whisk chocolate chips and cream together until smooth.
23. Pour warm chocolate into piping bag fitted with a fine-point tip.
24. Use the chocolate to make triangles for the eyes and then a zigzag mouth. Fill in the mouth with chocolate (Image 1).
25. Pipe chocolate on the top side of a chocolate wafer and then place a marshmallow round in the center (Image 2).

 

Halloween Haystack Mummies Recipe

Halloween Haystack Mummies Recipe

These adorable white-chocolate “wrapped” mummies are a great addition to your Halloween treat lineup. Flavored with peanut butter and butterscotch, the potato sticks give them just the right amount of salty flavor and crunch.

Before You Start:
White chocolate melts differently than regular chocolate; it takes very little heat to get it to the desired consistency.

 

Ingredients

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 1/2 cups shoestring potatoes
2 cups white chocolate chips
30 mini chocolate chips

 

Instructions

1. Add about 1 inch of water to a medium saucepan. Top the pan with a heatproof bowl making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not sit directly in the water.
2. Add butterscotch chips and peanut butter to the bowl and heat over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until completely melted and combined then remove bowl from heat.
3. Add shoestring potatoes to the butterscotch mixture and stir to coat completely. Cool for 3 minutes.
4. Place a piece of parchment paper on the back of a baking sheet.
5. Using a medium cookie scoop, measure out scoops of the haystack mixture packing it in quite firmly against the side of the bowl and leveling off the top with a butter knife or offset spatula before pressing the scoop flat on the baking sheet and releasing the contents.
6. Allow haystacks to cool and harden in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
7. Place hardened haystacks on a wire rack and place the wire rack on a baking sheet.
8. Fill a clean heatproof bowl with white chocolate chips then place the bowl over a small amount of water in a medium saucepan.

 

9. Heat the water on LOW heat and whisk the melted chocolate until smooth.
10. Remove from heat and cool for just a minute or two.

 

11. Place the melted white chocolate in a piping bag fitted with a long skinny icing tip like those used for flower petals.

12. At two thirds of the haystack mound begin coating with chocolate in a ribbon effect overlapping with each pass.
13. Start again at two-thirds but make the first pass a bit rounded to leave room for the eyes. Continue until the top of the mound is covered.

 

14. After all of the mounds are “wrapped” in chocolate, use a toothpick to place a white-chocolate dot for each of the eyes in the spaces you left. Insert a mini chocolate chip upside down on each dot of white chocolate while it is still soft (Images 1 and 2).
15. Place in refrigerator to cool completely before trimming away any excess chocolate around the bottom of the treats. Display stacked on a plate or slide each haystack into a cellophane bag to hand out as party favors (Image 3).

 

Halloween Snack Recipe: Wicked Witch Sandwich Cookies

Halloween Snack Recipe: Wicked Witch Sandwich Cookies

A plate of these wicked witch sandwich cookies will be a point of pride for little trick-or-treaters and a yummy bite for adult guests.

 

Yield: 20 sandwiches

 

Ingredients

For the cookies:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 ounce unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice

For the frosting:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon orange food coloring

For assembly:
1 small sandwich bag
20 chocolate kiss candies

 

For the Cookies

1. Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda in a food processor and pulse several times to mix thoroughly.
2. Cut butter into small chunks and add to the flour mix. Pulse several times.
3. Combine milk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running, add the milk mixture and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or the sides of the bowl.
4. Form the dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in parchment paper and refrigerate for one hour or until firm.
5. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, then preheat to 350 degrees F.
6. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper and nonstick spray. Cut the log of dough into slices 1/4-inch thick and place one inch apart on the pans to account for spread.
7. Bake, rotating the baking sheet from top to bottom and back to front about halfway through baking, for a total of 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies will puff up and deflate; they are done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.
8. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks, or slide the parchment onto racks to cool completely.

Note: The cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 2 months.

Makes 50 to 60 1 3/4-inch wafers

 

For the Frosting

1. Fit a mixer with the whisk attachment. On a low speed, whip sugar and butter. Once the ingredients are blended, increase speed and whip for one minute.
2. Add vanilla, cream and enough food coloring to make the frosting bright orange.
3. Refrigerate until ready to use for up to 2 weeks.

Note: If frosting is too thick, add more cream. If frosting is too thin, add more sugar. If frosting is lumpy, fit mixer with paddle attachment to break up lumps.

 

Assembly

1. Place roughly half of the frosting in a small sandwich bag, pushing the frosting to one lower corner. Cut a small hole in the corner to create your own piping bag.
2. Arrange 20 wafers on a lined sheet tray for easy handling and moving.
3. Pipe orange frosting into the center of a wafer, place another on top and gently push them together.
4. Pipe a small amount of frosting on the bottom of a chocolate kiss and place in the center of the sandwich. Press the candy until the frosting appears, making a small ring of orange around the kiss.
5. Pipe frosting around the edges of the wafer, making a brim for the witch’s hat.
6. Place cookies in the fridge to firm up frosting.

 

Quick + Easy Way

Ingredients:
40 chocolate wafers
1 can white frosting
20 chocolate kiss candies
1 bottle orange food coloring
1 small sandwich bag

Instructions:
1. Add several drops of orange food coloring to frosting can and stir until completely blended. Adjust coloring as needed for a bright orange hue.
2. Place roughly half of the frosting in a small sandwich bag, pushing the frosting to one lower corner. Cut a small hole in the corner to create your own piping bag.
3. Arrange 20 wafers on a lined sheet tray for easy handling and moving.
4. Pipe orange frosting into the center of a wafer, place another on top and gently push them together.
5. Pipe a small amount of frosting on the bottom of a chocolate kiss and place in the center of the sandwich. Press the candy until the frosting appears, making a small ring of orange around the kiss.
6. Pipe frosting around the edges of the wafer, making a brim for the witch’s hat.
7. Place cookies in the fridge to firm up frosting.