Happy Thanksgiving! Betsy and I are going to a friend’s house for turkey day. My friend orders her Thanksgiving meal from Cracker Barrel. It has been her go to meal for several years now. She will send me home with a leftover plate and all will be good. According to a Harris Poll, the majority of Americans prefer Thanksgiving leftovers to the actual meal. Almost eight in ten Americans agree that the second helpings of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie beat out the big dinner itself. I didn’t believe this, so I googled it and fell down a rabbit hole and found out about the first frozen dinner. In 1925, Clarence Birdseye developed a machine for freezing packaged fish. Then Maxson Food Systems used Birdseye’s technology to freeze meals for airlines in 1945 but did not get to market them in stores because the owner of Maxson died. According to company history, the Swanson Company transformed how Americans ate dinner; all because of Thanksgiving turkey. According to the company, a Swanson salesman thought of the idea of frozen dinners in late 1953 when he saw that the company had 260 tons of frozen turkey left over after Thanksgiving, sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars. The railroad cars refrigeration worked only when the trains were moving, so Swanson had the trains travel back and forth between Nebraska and the East coast until they could figure out what to do with the turkey. Swanson decided to pair the turkey with holiday staples like cornbread stuffing and sweet potatoes in frozen, portioned aluminum trays designed to be heated in the oven. Betty Cronin, Swanson’s bacteriologist, helped the meals succeed with her research into how to heat the meat and vegetables at the same time while killing food borne germs. This new American convenience was a commercial success. In 1954, the first year of production, Swanson sold ten million trays. These 98-cent meals were a hit with kids and busy households. In 1986, the Campbell Soup Company invented microwave safe trays which cut meal preparation down to minutes. This week’s recipe is for a casserole with all the flavors of Thanksgiving. You can make it with chicken or turkey, I use rotisserie chicken. Refrigerated ready to eat Bob Evans mashed potatoes is faster than making my own. I also use jarred gravy instead of homemade. Can you see a theme here? Use what you like the taste of. Leftovers work great but I like this casserole in January too so I use whatever’s easiest. And yes, I have frozen it to reheat later.
Thanksgiving dinner casserole
2 Tablespoons Butter or margarine
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 box stuffing mix (I use Stovetop cornbread)
2 cups cooked turkey breast chopped
1 cup turkey gravy (or a 12oz jar)
½ cup dried cranberries or cranberry sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.
Prepare a box of stuffing according to package directions.
Prepare mashed potatoes using two potatoes and your favorite mashed potato recipe.
Add the mashed potatoes to the casserole dish and spread them out to form an even layer.
Spread 1/3 of gravy over the mashed potatoes.
Add the chopped turkey to the casserole along with salt and pepper.
Spoon another 1/3 of gravy over the turkey.
Add the stuffing on top of the turkey layer and press it down to make an even layer.
Top with the last 1/3 of gravy and ½ cup of dried cranberries.
Bake for 30 minutes and 350 degrees.