Tidbits: Hot-dish insight

  • Article by: AL SICHERMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2012 - 2:32 PM

An influx of easy sauces are hot-dish ready when just cream of mushroom soup won't do.

Campbell's once noted that Minnesotans consume more "multi-use" soups, such as cream of mushroom, than do folks in any other region of the country. The reference was to using condensed cream of mushroom (or chicken, or celery) soup as the sauce in an easy hot dish (what's called a "casserole" in those benighted other regions).

Apparently grocery manufacturers believe the rest of the country still hasn't mastered that idea, as there are several new attempts to sell us easy sauces:

Recipe Starters

General Mills' Progresso has introduced a line of five canned Recipe Starters cooking sauces, sold next to its canned soups. They are creamy Parmesan basil, creamy roasted garlic, creamy three cheese, fire-roasted tomato and, of course, creamy portabella mushroom. The price of an 18-ounce can is essentially the same ($1.99 at one store) as an 18- or 19-ounce can of Progresso soup, and that seems reasonable, as it is essentially a can of soup. A 103/4-ounce can of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom (diluted with water to 18 ounces) is $1.36 at that store.

Mr. Tidbit was surprised to find that the "easy weeknight beef Stroganoff" recipe on the back of the Progresso sauce label -- in addition to beef, chopped onions and the can of sauce -- called for Worcestershire sauce, measured amounts of salt and pepper and sour cream. He would have thought that's what the can of sauce was for.

Skillet Sauces

No additions are called for with Campbell's six new aseptic-pouched Skillet Sauces: toasted sesame with garlic and ginger, creamy chipotle with roasted corn and black beans, scampi with white wine and garlic, Thai green curry with lemongrass and basil, marsala with mushrooms and garlic, and fire-roasted tomato with red bell peppers and chiles. The 9-ounce pouches, $2.29 at the same store, are labeled "just add" chicken, beef or shrimp, and the recipes on the back call for nothing more than browning the meat, adding the sauce and cooking.

Mr. Tidbit found the fire-roasted tomato version lots spicier than Progresso's -- but there's only half as much of it.

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