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Everyday Food: Three casseroles for easy meals straight from the oven

Sweet-Potato Shepherd's Pie.
Sweet-Potato Shepherd's Pie.

When it comes to radiating warmth at the dinner table, nothing beats meal-in-one casseroles.

What’s more, these dishes can be assembled a day ahead, go straight from the oven to the table and have an abundance of help-yourself allure.

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Sweet potato shepherd’s pie

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1  1/2 pounds ground beef (90 percent lean)
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (3 cups)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
  •  1/2 cup Pilsner-style beer
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1  1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cover potatoes with 2 inches of water in a pot; bring to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 17 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Mash with 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt.

2. Place beef in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up large pieces with a spoon, until browned, about 11 minutes. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon; pour off excess fat in skillet.

3. Add 1 tablespoon oil, mushrooms and onion to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 6 minutes. Add beer; cook until reduced, about 3 minutes.

4. Whisk together cornstarch, mustard and broth in a bowl; add to skillet and bring to a boil. Return beef to skillet; season with salt and pepper.

5. Top with mashed potatoes. Bake until bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 697 calories, 41 grams fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 40 grams protein, 117 milligrams cholesterol, 179 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber, 52 percent of calories from fat.

Salmon noodle casserole

Serves 6

  •  3/4 pound cavatappi or other short pasta
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces unthawed frozen peas (1  1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  •  3/4 pound salmon, skinned and cut into 1- to 1  1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving (optional)
  •  1/2 cup chopped scallions, plus more for serving (from 2 scallions)
  •  1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
  • Toasted pumpernickel bread, crumbled, for serving (optional)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water 4 minutes less than instructed on pasta package. Reserve  1/2 cup pasta water. Add peas and drain immediately.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook, stirring 1 minute. Whisk in milk. Gently simmer, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes.

3. Combine pasta mixture, milk sauce, salmon, lemon zest, scallions, dill and reserved pasta water in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Transfer to a 2  1/2-quart baking dish. Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake until salmon is just opaque, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve, with lemon wedges, more scallions and dill, and breadcrumbs.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 453 calories, 13 grams fat, 58 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 62 milligrams cholesterol, 147 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 26 percent of calories from fat.

Green chicken-enchilada pies

Our favorite tomatillo salsa is from Xochitl and is widely available. You can also bake one pie in an 8-inch dish.

Serves 4

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 pound, 6 ounces)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 1 jar (15 ounces) mild green tomatillo salsa (1  3/4 cups)
  • 9 corn tortillas (5-inch), quartered
  • 2  1/4 cups coarsely grated (on the large holes of a box grater) Monterey Jack
  • Cilantro sprigs, very thinly sliced radish and lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and chicken; cook, flipping once, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly; shred with two forks.

2. Divide  1/4 cup salsa among four 6-inch, 1  1/2-cup shallow baking dishes. Layer in 12 tortilla quarters, another  1/2 cup salsa, half of shredded chicken and  3/4 cup cheese, dividing evenly among dishes. Repeat layering.

3. Finish with remaining 12 tortilla quarters, followed by remaining salsa and cheese. Place dishes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until bubbly and tops are golden brown in spots, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving, with accompaniments.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 601 calories, 26 grams fat, 34 grams carbohydrates, 55 grams protein, 147 milligrams cholesterol, 881 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 40 percent of calories from fat.

Tian provencal with polenta

Serves 4

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1  1/2 cups quick-cooking polenta
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large leek, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced into half-moons and washed well (2 cups)
  •  1/2 small eggplant (6 ounces), cut into  1/8-inch rounds
  • 1 large zucchini (10 ounces), cut into  1/8-inch rounds
  • 2 medium tomatoes (10 ounces), cut into  1/8-inch rounds
  • 1 cup coarsely grated (on the large holes of a box grater) Gruyere

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a shallow 2-quart baking dish with oil. Bring milk and 2  1/2 cups water to a simmer in a medium pot. Whisk in polenta; cook, whisking 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared dish, spreading in an even layer.

2. Layer half of leek, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes over polenta. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Scatter with half of cheese. Repeat layering with remaining ingredients, omitting cheese.

3. Bake 30 minutes. Press vegetables down with a spatula; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until vegetables are knife-tender and edges are caramelized, about 35 minutes more. (If cheese is darkening too quickly, tent with foil.) Let cool slightly before serving.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 780 calories, 33 grams fat, 98 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams protein, 43 milligrams cholesterol, 147 milligrams sodium, 13 grams dietary fiber, 38 percent of calories from fat.

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