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These amateur chefs went casserole crazy

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Judge Dan Rollman began his duties by photographing all the entries in the seventh annual Casserole Crazy cookoff on Monday night. He was in for a long night of judging.
This contestant followed one major pre-contest guideline — use a crock pot to keep your entry warm during a long night of competition.
Rollman also served as timekeeper as amateur professional eater Rob Blatte broke his personal record for most casseroles tasted in 60 seconds.
Adrian Ashby shows off his “Pasta de Pastiche,” a standard casserole that won third place.
Later, Ashby celebrated his third-place finish. Yes, that’s a potholder he won.
Second-place winner Dan Depicciotto won runner-up status for a casserole that he calls “Mama Cass.” It featured, appropriately, bacon and truffle oil.
And the winners are — Nichelle Stephens and Patrice Callender made a simple-but-extraordinary hamburger casserole called “Damn, Gina!”

Hamburger Helper this wasn’t.

A last-minute entry won first place in the Seventh Annual Brooklyn Casserole Contest in Williamsburg on Monday night — thanks to the ingenuity and perspicacity of its creators, Patrice Callender and Nichelle Stephens.

The Brooklyn chefs fended off 40 tasty entries and took home first prize with their “Burger Casserole,” consisting of a smorgasbord of mixed hamburger meat, tomato sauce, pickles, onions, and flaky biscuits.

The judges laughed at the concoction when they first saw it — but then they tasted it and realized they had a runaway winner.

“The silly funny entry tasted extraordin­ary,” said judge Dan Rollman. “There were so many layers of flavors and textures. This dish raised the bar. I could imagine eating it at a restaurant.”

Callender and Stephens took the cake by outlasting a bevy of gooey dishes including Dan de Picciotto’s baked shells with truffle oil, bacon and cheese that finished second; a conservative well-made buttery pasta dish called “Pasta de Pastiche,” which placed third; and Susan Hilvert’s innovative savory bread pudding with ground lamb sausage, dried apricots and nuts which came to Hilvert’s roommate “in a dream.”

“My roommate woke me up, saying ‘savory bread pudding!’ and then shouted the ingredients,” said Hilvert, whose dish received an honorable mention. “It sounded like she was possessed by the spirit of the father of modern French cooking.”

But Callender and Stephens weren’t the only winners of the night. The event, held at the Brooklyn Kitchen’s Frost Street cooking laboratory, raised more than $1,000 for the Greenpoint Reformed Church’s soup kitchen and food pantry.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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