Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ham and Noodle Casserole

Straight from the Ladies' Pages....

Less time in the kitchen means more time in the garden or on the golf course or beach. Housewives who are racking their brains for time-saving dishes will welcome this casserole that may be prepared for baking early in the day.

To make it, cook one-half pound of noodles in two quarts of boiling water to which two teaspoons of salt has been added. When the noodles are tender, drain them well.

Melt two tablespoons of fat in a saucepan, stir in one tablespoon of flows to make a smooth paste. Make stock by dissolving two bouillon cubes in two cups of boiling water, add and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture in thickened. Season with one-half teaspoon of salt and one-half teaspoon of pepper.

Dice one-half pound of cooked ham and mix with the noodles. Add the thickened stock and pout the mixture into a greased casserole. Crush three-fourths cup crisp rice cereal and spread over the top. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of melted butter and a dash of paprika. Place the dish in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit) and bake for 20 minutes. 

So the fact that I could spend time doing something else besides cooking dinner is what drew me to this recipe. I loved the three alternatives given -- garden, golf course, or beach. Grandma most definitely would have chosen the garden -- not the golf course or beach. For me? Garden, beach or tennis court!

On a busy Monday I began this quick dinner at 4:30 p.m. with planned side dishes of split peas, marinated veggie salad and fruit. Rule #1 of modern cooking -- always put the water on to boil first before starting any prep. It was about 80 degrees that day and definitely toasty in the kitchen. Before too long I had the water boiling, the split peas simmering, and the fat (I chose butter) and flour cooked into a smooth paste. It's not every day I have three burners simultaneously firing on the stove if it's not a national holiday.

Bouillon cubes are NOT a part of my well-stocked kitchen and never will be. I had some vegetable stock ready in the fridge and figured two cups of that would equal the two cubes minus the sodium load. The resulting slurry reminded me of gravy-making and it came together rather quickly. I added the ham and dumped the lot into a round soufflé dish greased with cooking spray ( I know....). I added the "Crisp Rice", dotted it with butter and dashed on smoked Hungarian paprika for glamour. Into the oven!

My split peas simmered away, salad marinated and the twenty minutes went quickly and soon we were at the table by 6:00.
 Wait. 6:00? An hour and a half? I can bang out a dinner in 30 minutes on a normal night. If this is a time-saver....well, anyway, it had better be good. And good? Yes it was. The casserole was flavorful and rich in a comfort-food sort of way. MCL Cafeteria came to mind for me and Max declared the dish a "thumbs up". He also added that we should have this dish at every holiday meal...with hot dogs (?). However, when Max asked what was all the "crunchy stuff" on top we all decided the Crisp Rice cereal was a bit strange. Croutons or seasoned breadcrumbs would have sufficed.

The concepts of this dish were sound and fairly easy and I saw myself using leftover Thanksgiving turkey and varying the "gravy" as it were. Mmmm.....nooodles....goood.....

Soup Can Score -- Four and a Half out of Five

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