RUSHVILLE — To the average American the word casserole is basically a one-dish meal or a simple side dish. Actually the origins of casserole denoted a kind of stew pot, which is the diminutive of casse that in my understanding is French for an open mouthed pan of large proportions. The definition has evolved to include both the pan and the food.
In America a casserole, as a rule is cooked in an oven while in Europe it is just as likely to be cooked on top of the stove. Technically a casserole as a food is a dish that has two or more ingredients. The food can be very easy to combine and cook or very complex. I try to stay with the easy ones if I can. I work on the K I S S principle of keep it simple stupid. It works for me.
Casseroles have achieved a lot of favor because of their simplicity. Casseroles normally require less attention so that it frees up time for the cook to do other things. They can be used for your family and guests except for the very formal of occasions.
The shape of casserole range from round, oval, rectangular or square. Any of these work and will not make a difference in your food. With that being said the depth does make a difference. If a recipe calls for a shallow dish and you use a deep dish your cooking time changes. This may very well cause the food to cook slower and increase the amount of evaporation of moisture changing the texture of food. The one rule of thumb I use is that if the ingredients take up less than half of the pan I will use a shallower dish. Another rule not to forget is that never cook anything with acidity in an aluminum pot or pan. Also be aware that it is good practice to butter the insides of your cooking dish before placing the ingredients inside. There are a few recipes that call for a unbuttered dish but they are really the exception. I prefer to use a glass or enameled steel casserole dish. I feel that the enameled is the best not only because they are usually more ornate but that they can be used on the stove top in preparation stages of cooking if necessary.