A casserole is a large, deep pan that can be used to heat or serve food. It has been adapted to refer to the food served in such a pan. Beyond that, the casserole meal can vary widely when considering the ingredients it can contain.
The casserole dates back to 1866 when French Canadian immigrant Elmire Jolicoeur created a dish that would become the precursor to the modern meal as we know it. Early recipes featured rice that was pounded and pressed and filled with a mixture of meats.
Over the years, variations of the dish have emerged. In America and continental Europe, a casserole typically consists of pieces of meat, chopped vegetables, a starchy binder to hold them all together and a crunchy or cheesy topping.
Liquids are released from the vegetables and meat as they cook. Additional liquids may be added including stock, wine, beer, gin, cider or vegetable juice. Then, the dish is cooked slowly in the oven.
It can be served as a main entrée or as a side, typically in the traditional casserole dish in which it was baked.
In other countries, casseroles are more like stews. Meats and vegetables are browned on top of the stove and then cooked in liquid in the oven in a closed dish. The meat tends to be juicy and tender due to the slow cooking and the indirect heat decreases chances that the food will burn.
Casseroles rose in popularity in the 1950s when new forms of lightweight metal and glass cookware became available on the market. Housewives appreciated these easy to cook meals that could be served straight from the oven.
Today, casseroles are still the family favorites they have been for years.
And the possibilities are endless when you’re creating this one dish dinner bake, which makes it easy to make a hearty dinner with ingredients you have on hand.
Try some of our family classics for a dinner that’ll have you out of the kitchen in no time.
And before you go, remember casseroles can be served for breakfast too! Check out our entire section of breakfast casseroles: