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The Perfect Casserole: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Lamb

Updated on February 9, 2015

How to Cook The Perfect Casserole: Beef, Pork, Chicken, Game...

Living in England, as a child, we would usually have a casserole of some sort every week, featuring a variety of meats and vegetables. I assumed this was a quintessentially English dish (despite the French name) until I started travelling around Europe in my twenties and later around the world. When I developed a keen interest in cooking I discovered that much of Europe has essentially similar dishes, just using whatever ingredients are abundant in the area. e.g. peppers in Italy, olives in Spain and lots of inexpensive table wine in France. I have continued the family tradition of having casserole about once a week and have created a few variations on a theme (depending on what ingredients I have available) I also often make a casserole when we have company because, the preparation can be done in advance then popped in the oven where it can bubble away slowly for hours and the time when it needs to be served up is not critical.

The Basics: How to Cook a Casserole

The Basics

A meat casserole is simply cooked pieces of meat in a sauce, with vegetables, cooked slowly in the oven (or slow cooker). The meat can be almost anything: beef, lamb, pork, rabbit or chicken with just slight variations in how it is prepared, or more complex ingredients such as game birds or quails. The meat is browned first, on all sides, to seal in the juices. This would usually be done in the casserole dish, in which the finished dish will be baked (and probably served too) I use le Creuset casserole dishes of various sizes depending on the number of victims. Le Creuset look very traditional if you use them for serving the food too. Alternatively a frying pan could be used for this stage before assembling the ingredients in a casserole dish (or slow-cooker).

Le Creuset Casseroles

Le Creuset Casseroles
Le Creuset Casseroles

Ingredients

Casserole Ingredients

For a typical beef casserole:

Beef chopped into 1 inch cubes

Onion

Carrot

tomato

herbs and bay leaves

garlic

Beef stock and/or red wine

Olive Oil for browning the meat

Optional

Olives for a Spanish variation

Sweet Peppers for an Italian variation (add towards the end of the cooking time e.g. last half hour)

Lots of red wine for that French (or Italian or Spanish) feel

The amount you use of each ingredient can be varied a lot depending on your preference or what you have available, but it is important to have plenty of sauce (i.e. stock, wine and/or tomato juice) during the cooking process. For 4 to 6 people I would use perhaps 2 pounds of meat, two medium onions, two large carrots, several cloves of garlic at least one pound (500g) of chopped tomatoes with a cup of wine and a cup of stock.

How to Cook The Casserole

How to Cook The Casserole

Step One: Browning the meat

Heat the oil in casserole dish or frying pan on the hob (i.e. stove) to a medium to high heat and brown the meat on all sides fairly quickly, sealing in the juices. This should just take a few minutes as most of the cooking is done slowly in the oven, but don't do more than six to ten pieces of meat at a time, otherwise there will be lots of steam and you won't get the surfaces evenly cooked. Put the browned meat into a dish and do the next batch of meat until you have cooked all of the meat.

Step Two: The Vegetables

Add more oil and cook the chopped onions over a medium heat until soft (maybe just five minutes) and add carrots, herbs and garlic (chopped, crushed or whole) halfway through. Add the bay leaves (one or two of them) and the meat and stir. If you are using wine add this now too and bring to the boil for a few minutes, then add the stock and tomatoes (if you are using them) Add any other optional ingredients, bring to a slow simmer.

Step Three: Put it in the Oven!

Put it in the oven at a low heat for two hours (or more)... And that's it! Serve with potatoes (or rice, pasta or anything else you fancy)

Variations on a Theme

Variations

Beef is perhaps the easiest type of casserole: The longer you cook it the more tender it gets. Lamb is also good, but chicken and pork may get quite dry if over-cooked. Pork remains quite tender if cooked with apples and/or cider (I use the alcoholic European variety and boil off the alcohol) For Chicken, my favourite method is French style Coq au Vin in which chicken thighs and drumsticks are marinated in a whole bottle red wine, with herbs, overnight or for a full 24 hours, then drained (saving the red wine for the sauce) fried once dry, then assembled into a casserole, using baby onions, the red wine (and no stock) The chicken remains wonderfully tender. Another variation is to use small game birds (or quails) browned on all sides, then boiled just in white wine and chicken stock on the hob (i.e. not strictly a casserole, but very tasty)

If you are a vegetarian the meat and meat stock may be omitted and replaced with suitably tasty vegetables, although some vegetables will not survive such long cooking times and may need to be added later (e.g. peppers). Mushrooms are great whether you are using meat or not.

If you are using chicken, whole thighs and drumsticks with or without skin can be used (slightly fried first) and for rabbit, wrapping in bacon can help seal in the juices and prevent drying of the meat.

Le Creuset Casseroles

Le Creuset Casseroles
Le Creuset Casseroles

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    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Gosh, living in Florida, I yearn for the bits of cooler weather so that I can heat up the oven and stick in a casserole. It's particularly heartwarming, Andy, that guy like you can be not only a great photographer and investment guru, but also a chef/cook too! I like that.

    • DeannaDiaz profile image

      DeannaDiaz 5 years ago

      Ahh..smells good enough to eat!

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 5 years ago from London, England

      @anonymous: It's perfect weather for a hearty casserole today in London, especially up here at the top of Richmond Hill: rain dashing against the windows and the old chimney-pots howling in the wind. I'm glad I'm inside. What happened to the summer?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      So you can cook too...and very well. I love one dish meals and your casserole sure fits the bill for a nice hearty and healthy meal that is as easy as can be. There is a recipe module available now that I've been using and really like but its hard to get back to old recipes and transfer them. Perhaps I should save some time by making a casserole!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Wow, you English sure know the meaning of the word casserole, there is almost the kitchen sink there!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 6 years ago

      We have one casserole or another at least once a week.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      You're my kind of cook! I rarely measure certain ingredients anymore, and I also vary the ingredients as to what I have on hand. 5*

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Great tips for The Perfect Casserole. We usually have a casserole at least once a week. Lenrolled to my two Casserole lenses.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 7 years ago

      Andy!! I am impressed, not only for the great way you put this lens together but because you cook too!! WOW! So can you send some of the Chicken Casserole via the computer the next time you make it? (smiles) Thanks for adding this lens to the plexo Cooking-Lensography

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 7 years ago

      I've recently rediscovered my Le Creuset cookware for roasting vegetables and chicken. Can't believe I let it sit in my cupboard for so long. 5*

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 7 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Tasty Cooking Lens. I love beef casseroles. You are right, the lower the temperature, and the longer the cooking time, the more tender the meat. I think I cook mine at too high of a temperature. Terrific job on your first cooking lens!

    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 7 years ago from Rhode Island

      I can't wait to give this a try wonderful lens thank you

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 7 years ago from London, England

      @anonymous: Thanks very much. Yes. Good point. The hob is "The top cooking surface on a stove" (probably an English word, although we do use the word stove too) although, according to Wikipedia it could also be a male ferret, or a Northern English spirit, an elf, or even a devil! so be careful.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Great casserole lens. I will have to try this recipe.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great cooking/casserole lens, Andy. Your talents are quite impressive. Your recipes sound yummy and are easy to follow. I don't know the term "hob", but assume it's a stove? 5* and some angel dust to add to the mix.