Making it up as I go along, part deux

Now this, I really did just make up as I went along. I had to make a dish to pass for Thursday’s holiday luncheon at work. I planned to make something like the squash risotto but then I just did not feel like doing all the stirring required. And cutting up a hard, awkwardly shaped squash.

On our sign-up sheet I had marked “casserole” and US/Italy as the country (this year’s theme was international). A little departure from that but I definitely think I got the US of A part down!

All American Rice Casserole

Ingredients

1/2 bunch asparagus
1 small red onion
1 can creamed corn
5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
Gouda cheese
brown rice (2 cups dry)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
chicken broth
nutmeg
sage
salt/pepper
1 mashed clove of garlic

Directions

  • I cooked the rice in the rice cooker first. Took about 40 minutes for 2 dried cups of short grain brown rice. I let that work its magic while we ate dinner (see Part 1). When ready, preheat oven to 350°.
  • Trim asparagus, set tips aside then cut stems in to 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Quarter the red onion then slice thinly.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds then add red onion. Sprinkle a little salt on the onions to encourage the water to come out.
  • Season onions with 1 teaspoon dried sage and 1/4 tsp nutmeg (I grated part of a whole nutmeg using a microplane grater). Reduce heat to medium-low and allow onions to soften and begin caramelizing.
  • Meanwhile, spread cooked brown rice in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Unless the rice is very moist, pour a 1/4 to 1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable) over it. Sprinkle generously with grated Gouda cheese. Spread 1 can of creamed corn over the rice and cheese. Season with 1 teaspoon dried sage and a dash or two of nutmeg.
  • When onions have just started to brown, add sliced asparagus stems to pan. Cook 2-3 minutes until asparagus turns bright green.
  • Spread onion-asparagus mixture over corn in casserole dish.  Cover completely with grated Gouda; get right up the the edge of the casserole dish.
  • Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove covering and raise temperature to 475 or turn on broiler. Scatter tomato halves, asparagus tips and sliced (or slivered) almonds over top of casserole. Cook 10 minutes more until almonds begin to turn light brown. I did this under the broiler, about 8-10 inches from the element. Closer in, I would say 5 minutes or less- watch for burning!
asparagus corn casserole
asparagus corn casserole

 


Since I really did just make this up as a I went along, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Then I was late getting in the buffet line today and wondered if I’d get to try out my own dish! But I did. It was about 1/2 gone (and completely gone by the time the serving was over). I’m pleased but I would say that this dish is best served hot from the oven with the cheese bubbling. Being reheated and held in the oven dries out the rice.

Mad-Lib Meatballs

I hate coming up with names for recipes.

After getting off to a late start this morning (see previous post, did I mention it was past 4 am when we got home?), I ran some errands and spent too much money at Younkers (but everything was on sale and I gave stuff to charity for extra discounts so its all good). And in the back of my head I was working through this idea involving turkey meatballs, potatoes and a gravy/pan sauce.

By the time I got home and settled down to make dinner, I had a general plan. This is how it played out:

Ingredients

1 package ground turkey (Jennie-O brand, its about 19 oz)
1/4 onion, very fine dice
2 tsp. dried basil
one egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Garlic powder
1/4 onion, diced or sliced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced or sliced
mashed garlic
1 tbs butter
1/8 cup flour + 1/4 cup water, combined
1 cup vegetable broth
seasoning of your choice- I used a Mrs. Dash salt-free Onion and Spice mix.
salt & pepper, olive oil
8-10 small potatoes, red or yellow, maybe some fingerlings, halved or quartered depending on size

Directions: NOTE: Since I was winging it completely, most measurements are approximate.

  • Saute the finely diced onion in a little olive oil with some garlic until the onions are translucent and soft. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  • While the onions are cooking, combine ground turkey, basil, egg, garlic powder (several shakes from the jar) and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. After onions have cooled slightly, add to bowl. Stir in approximately 1/2 cup bread crumbs. The mixture should stick together easily but not be goopy from the egg or overly dry. I used Panko bread crumbs which are a little bigger than regular so keep that in mind.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a rack on a large rimmed baking sheet and give it a shot with the non-stick spray. Roll the turkey mixture in to meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Space evenly on the rack. The rack is important here because the fat will drain away while the meatballs are cooking. We need some of the fat for a later step. Cook meatballs for 15 minutes then flip them over (this step is optional but they do look prettier this way) and bake for 10 more minutes.
  • While meatballs are in the oven, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook about 10 minutes or until potatoes just break when squeezed with tongs. Drain and keep potatoes warm.
  • While potatoes are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add 1 mashed garlic clove and the 1/4 onion that was diced or sliced. Let cook about 3 minutes then add bell pepper pieces. Season with salt and pepper plus seasonings of your choice (Mrs. Dash in my case, about 1 tsp worth). Allow the peppers and onions to cook in the pan without browning or going dry. When the meatballs are done, remove from the oven. Scoop up some of the fat drippings in the bottom of the baking sheet and add to the onions and peppers. Saute about 1 minute then add vegetable broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Use a spatula to scrape up any good bits in the bottom of the pan. Stir-in the flour-water mixture then reduce heat to low. Add 1 tbls butter to further thicken the gravy.
  • To serve, puddle some gravy with peppers and onions on the plate, top with meatballs and potatoes. Drizzle additional gravy over the top and garnish with fresh chives. Steamed snap peas tossed with lemon make an excellent side dish.

From the package of turkey, I got about 14 meatballs. Each serving tonight was 4 meatballs, five or 6 pieces of potato and enough gravy to make us both happy so we have plenty for leftovers.

I think that next time, I’d use chicken broth instead of vegetable for a little more poultry flavor in the sauce.