Casserole versus Stew


It was during one of my frequent trips to London – during dinner I was asked what the difference is between a casserole and a stew.
My first answer was that a casserole is a one-pan dish, prepared with a part starch, vegetables and meat or fish. A stew however, is a dish usually made of slow-cooked meat. Still this description was not entirely satisfying to me and my table company and I decided to set-off to my quest to find out what exactly is the difference between a casserole and a stew and what the most favourite recipes are.
My first source is the culinary bible: Larousse Gastronomique. The Larousse describes the ‘casserole’ first as a cooking utensil made of metal or some other oven-proof material which is fitted with a lid and designed for long slow cooking in the oven. I found the first link to my Le Creuset pan! The description follows that in classic French cooking a casserole is also a dish generally made with cooked rice moulded into the shape of a casserole dish or timbale, these dishes can have various fillings, including mousses, fat or lean minced (ground) meat, game purée, calves’ or lamb’s sweetbreads and escalopes of truffled foie gras, garnished a la Sagain, a la venitienne, a la bouquetiere , a la regence, and a la Nantua. . Cold it can also be garnished with aspic jelly.

I was very confused by this description… And so the quest continues. Whilst very popular since its invention in 1870, the casserole took a less sophisticated image by the 1970 with the modernization of the kitchen and cooking. Less sophisticated but not less popular. On the contrary simple, what we consider a casserole dishes have made its way on the daily menu of many households, types of caseroles include, cassoulet, lasagna, shepherd’s pie, moussaka and gratin.
So from this description I decided to pick my favorite casserole dish. The all-time favorite: lasagna, and because I love Italian food and making my own pasta.

This blog is not dedicated to a lasagna recipe, but rather some tips that are worthwhile keeping in mind next time you are about to make your own lasagna casserole!

1. Make your own lasagna leaves/strong>;
Using home-made or fresh pasta in your lasagna is delicious and adds firmness to the consistency!

2. Season the (ground) minced meat
People often follow the recipe by adding the minced meat without seasoning it beforehand. Give your lasagna that extra kick by seasoning with any, and I mean, any type of fresh or dried herbs. Keep in line with the Italian theme and use freshly chopped oregano, basil and thyme. Add an exotic touch by using a blend of Moroccan or even Jamaican-jerk seasoning. Sounds weird? I know but you’ll be surprised once you take a bit!

3. Cheese or cheese?
Original recipes include using mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Add an extra bite and nice rich creamy flavor by using a mix between mozzarella and Gorgonzola!

4. Classic is best!
After tip 1 till 3 you are on your way to fully customizing your lasagna. So my last and best tip is to finish off the fish with homemade Bechamel sauce, by mixing melted butter with some flour, allowing it to bake a couple of minutes in the pan and then adding the milk dissolving the dough into the slowly warming mixture. Season with salt and pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg!

Buon appetito!

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