Leave Grandma’s green-bean casserole or tuna-noodle bake recipes at home. Casseroles can and should challenge the notions of what comfort food is. For this fun themed event among friends, think outside the Pyrex dish.
For competition parameters, have five or so teams of one to three prepare dishes ahead and bring them to the party location. (More than five teams will create too much food.) Also, create judging criteria, such as taste, texture and presentation. It’s a casual competition among friends, so everyone can judge—just be honest. A point system could help, or structure it any way that works. Dig in, then crown the winning culinary curator with a group-decided prize: bragging rights, a new baking dish or maybe a restaurant gift certificate.
As far as recipes, consider a cornbread casserole with butternut squash, wild mushrooms and ancho mole. A chicken enchilada casserole with a “Christmas tree” topping (pictured) made of guacamole, crema and cubed heirloom tomatoes would visually impress, while a French toast crusted casserole topped with dollops of foie gras and cherry compote would taste stunning. Whatever concoction you find or create, making it challenging and well executed, with simple quality ingredients, will help ensure delicious results.
Finally, just have fun—casserole contests partner well with ugly-sweater parties. Party on.