October 2, 2018 – It should be clear by now that I am a child of the ’50s. I’ve certainly written enough about casseroles to make the point.
I am a fan of casseroles for the same reason that motivated the dominant generation of the last century. It was a time when our lifestyle was undergoing significant change. The old days of one person in the family working outside the home and the second tending the house and children were rapidly disappearing. More and more it was becoming necessary for both husband and wife to take paying jobs. And still the family must be fed.
Casseroles were, and are, an easy answer. They’re easy to throw together, most anything in the pantry or refrigerator can go into them, they can be prepared relatively quickly in advance, and, when working parents get home, an hour or so in the oven produces dinner. They also have the added benefit of using up any leftover bits of food that might otherwise be wasted.
I had a beautiful ribeye calling to me and wanted an accompaniment. But I had a busy day ahead. When the sun was over the yardarm late in the afternoon, I wanted to enjoy a flute of Prosecco. I didn’t want to be standing in front of the stove.
What did I have that could be prepared earlier in the day? All kinds of vegetables, both fresh and frozen. Oh yeah, either works well. I had a head of broccoli, a handful of Brussels sprouts, and a potato. There were also half bags of green beans and pearl onions in the freezer. And cheese. Always some form of cheese. To add a little depth of flavor, a poblano pepper.
I cut the broccoli flowerets away from the stalk. The Brussels sprouts were trimmed and cut into halves. The potato I cut into bite size pieces, leaving the skin on. I chopped the poblano also into bite size pieces.
If you’re using fresh vegetables, brown them a bit in olive oil. Frozen vegetables can be tossed in as is.
To bind it all together, I made a Béchamel sauce seasoned with the poblano pepper. A nice touch.
I used Mozzarella cheese because it’s what I had and I like it. Any grated cheese will be fine.
There is nothing sacred about the ingredients I used. They were just some of my favorites, some things I had on hand. They worked for me.
The final result was a cheesy, gooey bit of deliciousness, a perfect side to a rare ribeye.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (more if needed)
1/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
Flowerets from one head of broccoli
1 poblano pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 russet potato with skin on, cut into bite size pieces
6 ounces frozen green beans
6 ounces frozen pearl onions
2 – 3 cups grated cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
In a skillet with a heavy bottom, warm two tablespoons of olive oil over moderate heat. Saute’ the Brussels sprouts and broccoli flowerets until they begin to brown. It’ll probably take about four minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
Add two more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. When it is heated, saute’ the poblano pieces until they begin to soften, about three or four minutes.
Add two tablespoons of flour and stir to make a roux. Don’t let it darken. When the flour and oil are incorporated, add the milk, increasing the heat to high. Stir continuously as the Béchamel begins to thicken. When the sauce has reached the desired thickness, season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
Place the Brussels sprouts, broccoli, potato, green beans, and pearl onions in an oven proof dish with a tight cover. Add grated cheese to taste and the Béchamel sauce. Mix well.
Cover with a generous amount of additional grated cheese.
Bake, covered, at 350 for an hour.