We tend to think of a casserole as a hearty winter stew but the original “casseroles” were lidded containers such as saucepans or other heatproof cookware that could be placed into the oven or on the stove top. A casserole recipe is usually a two stage process – preparing and browning the ingredients on the stove top, followed by a longer hands off period while the casserole cooks in the oven.
An acidic ingredient aids the tenderising process so many casserole recipes contain beer, wine, tomatoes, cider or vinegar or in some cases fruit such as the tamarillos in the 5 spice pork and tamarillo casserole
Long slow cooking causes the connective tissue in the meat to melt and break down producing tender meat and the lid prevents evaporation so the food cooks gently allowing the flavours to meld and develop.
Thickening is achieved either through the inclusion of flour at the beginning of the process which forms a gravy while the dish cooks or through the addition of thickening at the end such as corn flour
If you don’t have a cast iron or flame proof casserole that can go from the element to the oven begin your casseroles on the stove top in a saucepan then transfer them to an ovenproof dish with a lid.
The beauty of a good casserole is the combination of a rich sauce, meltingly tender meat and vegetables all together in one dish. Since a really tender casserole can take up to 3+ hours to make but taste better on the second day making for amazing leftovers or a sublime pie filling. In fact why not make a big one and freeze 1/2. Suitable cuts of meat are generally the less expensive ones, so that’s another plus.