God if there’s one thing I hate (hah!) it’s standing over a hot stove on a hot afternoon or evening. So, I been endeavoring to get dinner done before noon at least a few days a week. Cold salads are also nice, but I got a teenager, and you know they need something that sticks to their skinny ribs, even in hot weather.
My grandma made a lot of casseroles. Last week we had her favorite, chicken and zucchini casserole, with home made croutons. The secret to a lot of my grandma’s casseroles, and most old lady casseroles, is a can of “cream of…” soup. Cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, cream of celery, no matter. You throw together whatever concoction of meat, vegetables and either noodles or bread or both, and then you float it all in a can or two of “cream of” soup, with some milk added of course to loosen the whole thing up. This mess sits in your oven and congeals into a lovely loaf of…well, kind of a loaf loaf. It’s full of food, and it tastes like MSG – what the hell else do you need to know about it?!
But, I don’t like canned soup, that taste never escapes me – tastes like CAN. So I’ve learned to make my own white sauce, and add cheese when I want. Just takes practice – melt a few tablespoons of butter, stir in about a quarter cup of flour, and “brown it” – it will turn yellowy brown and look like greasy powder. Then slowly add milk, keeping the fire low, stirring it with a fork to keep it from sticking or lumping. Add black pepper, garlic salt, whatever herbs you like. Keep stirring, and as it thickens, add more milk. Keep doing this until you have about two cups. You can stir in a cup of grated cheese at this point – did I say, keep that flame LOW? – and it will melt in really fast, add it to your taste.
You’ve already arranged your cooked macaroni and meat and squash in a casserole pan, so you can pour the sauce over it. I work it in gently with a fork so the sauce spreads through the casserole. Then I cover it with foil and bake it for about 30 minutes on 350. It can be re-heated for dinner, but this will only take a few minutes, and the other pots and pans have been washed and put away, the mess is a memory.
I enjoyed that show, Malcolm in the Middle. Once a week or so, the mother would take all the edible leftovers out of the refrigerator, and smash it all into a Tupperware container, smash it down good, put the lid on, stick it back in the fridge. She called it “Surprise Loaf” or something exciting, and the family gobbed it down faster than a Chinese fire drill.
Anybody got a good casserole recipe please send it along.