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Comfort food in NYC: Best new casserole dishes

In the last gasp of winter (fingers crossed!), New York City restaurants are firing up highbrow takes on that comfort-food classic, the casserole.

 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Tuna casserole at Golden Cadillac Food & Drink

Tackling the Campbell’s muck of canned tuna and condensed soup, chef Miguel Trinidad (Jeepney, Maharlika) upgrades the dish at this groovy cocktail bar. The tinned provisions are swapped for from-scratch cream-of-mushroom soup and olive-oil-poached tuna, laced with al dente egg noodles and studded with plump peas. For that golden-brown crust, Trinidad opts for crispy, butter-dotted panko, putting your Aunt Mildred’s soggy crushed-potato-chip topping to shame. 13 First Ave at 1st St (212-995-5151, goldencadillacnyc.com). $7.

 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Mountain-bird cassoulet at Mountain Bird

Harlem’s fowl-focused charmer dishes out one killer cassoulet. The one-pot wonder jacks up the Toulouse original—which marries garlicky sausage, duck confit and white beans—with a heady blend of beak-to-claw poultry. Creamy chicken-comb confit, snappy turkey links and bacon, and thyme-rubbed duck leg are cooked low and slow with sweet carrots and Spanish onion. At the end of the meal, drop the fork—the only utensil you’ll need is the hearty loaf of oven-warm pumpernickel to sop your plate clean. 231 W 145th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (212-281-5752, mountainbirdnyc.com). $20.

 (Photograph: Melissa Sinclair)
Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Fennel-and-fish pie at the East Pole

At this uptown Anglo canteen, Nicholas Wilber’s version of the Brit classic toes the line between humble and high-minded. The chef binds flaky pollack and generous hunks of lobster claw with a tarragon-flecked fennel puree, adding a jolt of brightness to the notoriously rich dish. The hearty potage is cloaked with a thick, bubbly head of puff pastry, begging to be pierced with a spoon through its buttery seal. 133 E 65th St between Park and Lexington Aves (212-249-2222, theeastpolenyc.com). $29.

 (Photograph: Virginia Rollison)
Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Dark-meat fricassee at the NoMad

You’ve come for the famed foie-stuffed chicken—that’s a given. But while Daniel Humm’s roasted bird is the star of the meal, the iron cocotte of dark meat that accompanies it is equally worthy of the spotlight. After a server gives the table a mouthwatering peek at the whole fowl, it’s returned to the kitchen, where it’s broken down: Plated separately from the storied breast, the tender thigh and leg are shredded and sautéed in brown-butter vinaigrette. For textural foils, the moist meat is topped with crispy chicken cracklings, a froth of truffled potato espuma and a runny soft-cooked egg, whose drippy yolk adds an extra level of lushness. 1170 Broadway at 28th St (347-472-5660, thenomadhotel.com). $79 (as part of the whole-roasted chicken for two).

 (Photograph: Jessica Lin)
Photograph: Jessica Lin

Vegetable casserole at RedFarm

The Greenmarket-packed crock at this shiny new outpost of the downtown Chinese hit has little in common with the sad casseroles you begrudgingly ate as a kid. Chef Joe Ng loads his with a larder’s worth of spice: Chili powder, ginger and lemongrass hit you at first whiff. Punctuated by zippy slips of mapo tofu, the aromatic pot brims with silky Japanese eggplant, crisp broccoli stalks and wilted heirloom tomatoes, soaking up the sweet-and-spicy coconut curry. With heat rising from the back of your throat to the tip of your tongue, digging into this steamy dish will makes you feel warmer than you’ve felt in weeks. 2170 Broadway between 76th and 77th Sts (212-724-9700, redfarmnyc.com). $20.

 (Photograph: Virginia Rollison)
Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Sweetbread gratinée at Telepan Local

At the Tribeca sibling to Bill Telepan’s uptown flagship, chef de cuisine Joel Javier doles out a true cold-weather indulgence: a toasty, molten ramekin of sweetbreads that can convert even the staunchest of offal skeptics. Browned with lightly crisp edges, the lobes are rendered velvety in a garlic-tinged butter sauce, with a tumble of parsley cutting through the crackle of bread crumbs on top. 329 Greenwich St between Duane and Jay Sts (212-966-9255, telepanlocal.com). $12.

This season’s polar vortex has had more comebacks than Matthew McConaughey, and there’s no better way to wait out what are hopefully the last weeks of winter than with a hearty casserole. We’ve rounded up a warming cross-section of updates on the classic comfort food, from some of New York’s newest spots: French cassoulet at Mountain Bird, British fish pie at East Pole and steamy Chinese pots at RedFarm. Grab a scarf and a spoon and dig in—see you in spring.