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Every home cook faces the daily dilemma of what to prepare for dinner. Two favorites consistently rise to the surface because they are easy to prepare, can effectively incorporate leftovers, and are a hit with diners of all ages. Choosing between preparing a stew or a casserole doesn’t have to be difficult for the clever cook, who knows they can be combined into a beef stew casserole that features the best of both.
As with most truly delicious recipes, there are both many variations on the theme and a few good-to-know shortcuts that can make preparing the casserole easy. The simplest beef stew casserole uses frozen mixed veggies, a can of drained and stewed tomatoes, and a jar of beef gravy in addition to beef stew meat. One version adds diced potatoes and a sautéed onion to the pot, and layering the top with refrigerator buttermilk biscuits provides a true crowning touch.
Anything that is good in beef stew is welcome to jump into the casserole. A combination of wild and domestic mushrooms lends the dish an exotic flavor, while some sliced water chestnuts provide a little unexpected crunch. Instead of buttermilk biscuits, a sprinkling of seasoned bread crumbs or crushed crackers that have been lightly browned gives the beef stew casserole a nice finish.
Other options for topping the casserole include whipping up a little cornbread batter from a box or from pantry ingredients then pouring it over the meat and veggies to form a crust in the oven. For pastry lovers, a pastry crust is both beautiful and delectable. Cooks who opt for this type of crust must be sure to vent it by cutting a design in the dough; otherwise, the results will be soggy and not very good.
Using fresh-from-the-garden veggies in place of frozen or canned can make the beef stew casserole more flavorful, as long as the veggies haven't languished for too long on the grocery store shelf. No cook will argue that jarred gravy is convenient, but few of them would claim it tastes as good as homemade. For cooks who have the time, creating a beef stew casserole that is even more delicious than the quick-and-easy version is worth the extra effort.
Some cooks prefer egg noodles or other pasta in place of, or in addition to, the potatoes. Others skip both starches and cook a pot of rice then heap the finished beef stew casserole atop the rice when serving it. There’s almost no easier meal that a beef stew casserole and few that are more delicious.