Image of Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Enchiladas from CHOW

We understand why the world has so many casserole-haters: too many Middle America–born dishes that are simply vehicles for frozen vegetables and soups out of a can. But hear us out for a minute when we say that not every casserole is mush. Great casseroles, in fact, do exist, especially when you take the time to brown ingredients first. Cooking components of a dish slowly in the oven allows their flavors to meld together and guarantees a nice crust on top, improving the dish’s texture. Behold these seven fine examples.

1. Pastitsio

Pastitsio, which is layers of cinnamon-spiced ground meat, eggy pasta, and cheese-covered béchamel, is a popular specialty in Greece. Serve it with a shepherd’s salad.
Photo and recipe from Chaos in the Kitchen

2. Cassoulet

For the most stick-to-your-ribs dish of them all, do as they do in the South of France and braise poultry, pork sausages, and beans until their flavors melt together.
Photo and recipe from Serious Eats

3. Moussaka

Like pastitsio, moussaka is another Ottoman favorite that employs layers of spiced ground lamb and a thick béchamel. But the star of this dish is perfectly yielding eggplant.
Photo and recipe from Feasting at Home

4. Enchiladas

Not all Tex-Mex enchiladas are swimming in refried beans and cheese. Ancho chiles are responsible for this version’s intense flavor.
Photo and recipe from Saveur

5. Spiced Baked Shrimp and Creamy Orzo

Thanks to an oven bake, these shrimp become supple and infused with the flavors of cinnamon, allspice, and chiles. Layer the shrimp with yogurt, orzo, and goat cheese for a complete meal.
Photo and recipe from Food52

6. Choucroute Garnie

The name “choucroute garnie” may sound fancy, but it really just translates to “garnished sauerkraut.” The earthy Alsatian peasant dish generally consists of sausage, bacon, and salt pork baked in a ceramic dish with potatoes and fermented cabbage.
Photo and recipe from Lost Past Remembered

7. Biryani

Biryani, a South Asian rice dish of rice and vegetables or meat, usually has a lengthy ingredient list of spices, herbs, dried fruits, and nuts—but once you taste its multilayered flavors, you won’t regret the cooking effort.
Photo and recipe from The Kitchn

Susannah Chen is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. When she’s not cooking or writing, she’s on the hunt to find the world’s best chilaquiles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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