Casserole Call: Six one-dish wonders built for comfort

From the October 20, 2011 edition

It might be homely, unhip and out of favor these days, but a great casserole dish is like a time machine. Forking through its accumulated layers — that crunchy crust followed by a soothing middle — is like digging into the past.

It’s a pre-celebrity-chef American past, when simple home-cooked dinnertime casseroles were commonplace and widely beloved. But there’s also an emotional past, back when the edible hug of your mom’s or grandma’s lasagna, mac and cheese or tuna noodle was the best thing ever.

Speaking of going back in time, a couple of weeks from now is “fall back” Saturday when, to madly prepare for winter, our clocks are turned back an hour. With darkness descending ever earlier and a fiercer bite to the chilly night air, what better time to travel to a warming meal and — at least momentarily — back to a simpler yesteryear while dining on oh-so-comforting casseroles? Here are six delicious time machines.