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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.
I've seen recipes for a slow cooker beef stew casserole that interested me. I'm not sure what you'd do for a topping, or if there is one, if you go that route. Maybe that would be the serve over rice version. In that case, you'd want to leave out the potatoes. Serving it over mashed potatoes would be good, too.
A cornbread crust would be good -- especially one with a little cheese, or maybe a Mexican cornbread crust to spice it up a bit. Going with a Mexican flavor would be really easy, now that I think about it, too. You could just add some taco seasoning and a can of green chiles and do the Mexican cornbread crust. That actually sounds pretty good. I may have to try something along those lines.
Easy meals are always in demand at my house, so this might be something I'll want to pursue further.
I really like beef stew casserole. One tip is too make sure it's not too soupy, though. Otherwise, you'll need to eat it in a bowl, and not on a plate. Using rice or noodles will help this, but sometimes, it's just a little trial and error.
Also, if you use raw potatoes for your casserole, partially cook them first! They might not bake in the dish long enough to cook all the way through. Canned or frozen potatoes will probably be all right, but for raw potatoes, I'd cook them for at least 10 or 15 minutes to get them started.
A good option for a crust is to unroll some refrigerated crescent dough, pinch the seams together, roll
it to the shape of the pan and put it on top. You can brush with egg white or milk for color. (And remember to cut some slits so the casserole can vent.)
I've used ground beef in a beef stew casserole, but I really do prefer stew meat. It's so tasty!
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