What to do with the rest of the cabbage ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

11 December 2008

What to do with the rest of the cabbage

Make baked mac and cheese with savoy cabbage, and throw in some of the leftover purple kale from before. Don't make that face! It was really good!

It was especially good because I made the cream sauce with smoked gouda. There is nothing like smoked cheese for making an entire dish of gratin, dauphinoise, or just pasta taste like it's spent a week inhaling a pan of wet hickory. Oh yes.

This requires a couple more dishes than some food, but I think it's worth it.

Baked mac and gouda with greens.

milk or cream
garlic, shallot
salt, pepper
maybe some cayenne
smoked gouda and/or other cheese
winter greens: cabbage, kale, mustard greens, etc.
chunky pasta

We're going to make cream sauce and pasta, then layer the sauced pasta with greens and bake it. Obviously, if you have some other cheese/vegan/etc sauce you want to use, it should be fine here.

Pasta: boil and drain pasta at a logical point in the sauce proceedings. I used penne; most chunky pasta should work fine.

Sauce: melt a chunk of butter in a deep, whiskable saucepan. I think we were actually out of butter at this point, so I subbed olive oil, proving that it is in fact possible to make white sauce (i.e. bechamel. yes! YOU WIN.) with olive oil.

I wanted some garlic and shallot, so I decided to cook them in the oil, then make the sauce on top of it. I just threw them into the pan to soften in the oil. It's definitely possible to do this with butter too, but it's slightly difficult to keep it from browning before you add the flour; use pretty low heat if you do this. You can also soften the garlic/etc in another small pan, then add it to the sauce later. If you like cayenne in your mac and cheese, add it to cook with the garlic and shallot.

When the garlic and shallot have softened, and/or the butter is melted, add about the same amount of flour as butter/oil. I used wheat flour and just took it in handfuls out of the bag. Whisk over medium heat for three or four minutes, blending the four and butter thoroughly. When they begin to turn golden and look toasty, add your milk. I never measure when I do this, seriously, but I used something like two cups of skim milk. You can use any kind of milk. Skim milk is the hardest to thicken; whole milk is the easiest if you don't want to shell out for cream.

Whisk fairly regularly as the milk warms up. After a bit, it should start to thicken. The timing here depends almost entirely on the fat content of your milk: the less fat it has, the longer thickening will take. Occasionally I find that skim milk doesn't want to thicken much at all. If this happens, don't worry too much: when you add the cheese, it always provides enough fat to get the sauce stable.

Grate a bunch of smoked gouda. I had about a three inch square piece, which was fine. The flavor of smoked cheese is generally pretty strong, so you can escape with using less. Or you can mix it with different bits of cheese you have left over in the refrigerator. I added some sharp cheddar so we'd have enough cheese for crispy bits on top.

Add your grated cheese gradually to the sauce (or just grate it intermittently into the pot), whisking after every round. Leave a couple handfuls aside for the aforementioned crispy bits. Pepper the sauce vigorously. It's done.

Assembly: preheat the oven to 350F. Dump your drained pasta into the sauce pan and stir to mix, coating all the pieces with sauce. Wash and devein your dark greens. I used four or five savoy cabbage and two purple kale leaves; you can clearly use more if you want. Cut the greens into smallish squares, so you won't get awkward long pieces in the finished product.

In a casserole dish, spread a layer of the pasta and sauce, then a layer of greens. If you have excessive leftover cheese, you can add a layer of that as well. Repeat until you're out of everything, ending with pasta. Spread your reserved cheese over the dish, then put it into the oven.

Bake until the dish is hot through and golden brown on top. 15 minutes should do it.

Eat it. Ding ding ding! I find that mac and cheese likes red wine for some reason.

You are now tired and must go to bed.

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