The Best Casserole Toppings
Contrary to popular belief, winter cooking is anything but boring. Although you may be missing the bright, colorful hues of summertime meals, the darker, rich and natural foods of winter often have more robust flavor and provide endless possibility for meals. There are a number of bold, earthy winter spices that can enhance all of your soups, stews and roasts. You can also make your winter casseroles even more flavorful with a number of creative toppings.
Breadcrumbs may as well be considered the original casserole topping. They're the most simple, yet effective finishing touch on a hot and bubbling casserole straight out of the slow cooker. Simply sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of your chicken, mushroom or cauliflower casserole 30 minutes before it's finished. Your Crock-Pot® Programmable Casserole Crock Slow Cooker has a digital timer that counts down the cooking time left. For a slightly crispier version, toss breadcrumbs in olive oil or melted butter and coat with your choice of cheese and spices. This will help the crumbs gold faster, for more flavor and crunch.
Sprinkled, grated, shredded - it's impossible to go wrong with a cheese topping, no matter what the casserole dish is. A thin layer of hard cheese such as grated parmesan adds the perfect savory and salty layer, while softer cheeses such as mozzarella, Swiss and cheddar bring a lighter, but more complex addition. Add variety to your Mexican and Italian taco and pasta casseroles with a combination of cheeses. For a cheesy, melted version add the topping to your slow cooker before the dish is finished cooking. For a stronger contrast, wait until the dish has almost cooled before topping with cheese.
Adding nutty flavor to any casserole makes for a richer flavor and enhanced texture. If you're slow cooking a zesty Italian-inspired dish, consider using pine nuts. Indian and other East Asian casserole dishes pair perfectly with the lighter, sweeter tastes of peanuts and cashews. Crushed pecans, almonds and macadamia nuts are great for sprinkling on top of any casserole.
Chances are, store-bought fried onions immediately bring you back to Thanksgiving dinners and one too many servings of green bean casserole. These days, there's an even better way to bring the crunchy texture of crispy onions to your casseroles. The best way to bring the sweet, pure flavor to your dish is to first thinly slice an onion. Lay all sliced pieces flat and cook them until golden. Placing them on top of your green beans or beef casserole continues to slow cook them to perfection. For an even bigger burst of flavor, caramelize the onion slices before using as a topping.
With a 1/2 cup of panko, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and some olive oil, you can create a mouth-watering topping in a matter of seconds. Mix the three ingredients together and top on your chicken and mushroom casserole, meatloaf or vegetable and salmon casserole. For the ultimate crunch, add the panko crumbs halfway through the cook time. By the time your slow cooker is finished, you'll have a dish that's warm and soft underneath and topped with crispy, robust flavor in every bite.
Other great casserole topping ideas include crumbled bacon, crushed potato chips, chow mein noodles, mushrooms, croutons, sauteed spinach and corn flakes. Get creative and experiment with all kinds of new toppings this winter.