Wednesday, February 17, 2010

All Alone On A Wednesday

Yes, that would be Wednesday. As in, the day all the big furniture bits can go out to the curb. As in the ONLY day all week that this can happen. And here I am, sitting in unabated solitude. I wonder what it was about Help Me! that no one understood? Ah, well. I'll try again next week.

Meanwhile, I have taken two weeks worth of garbage out to the curb, and now that I think of it, it's probably just as well that no one came to deal with the big stuff, since there actually isn't any more room out there. There were 10 bags of garbage and a box full of boxes...and there's still a pile of snow that I had to rather precariously balance it all on. Yes, definitely better to try taking out big stuff NEXT week.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law and nephew and Sarah and Seth came over to dinner last night, and we had a lovely time, thank you. Not that my first husband's family weren't perfectly nice people, but their idea of filling a bookshelf was Reader's Digest Condensed Books. It's a pleasure to be a member of a family with whom one can actually converse.

So I did my usual chicken with its head cut off number all day, running through all the cookbooks looking for something cheap and filling, and finally gently kicked myself in the head and said, Martha's, you blithering idiot. What else?

I first tasted this casserole about 45 years ago, when friends used to make it for every cast party. It has a number of assets, such as: It's cheap. You can cut it in half or multiply it indefinitely. The entire process takes something under an hour from the time you start to boil water for noodles until the time it goes on the table, and it sits in the oven for half an hour of that time, which gives you a clear space to organize bread and a salad, which is all it needs in the way of accompaniments. And best of all, everybody in the whole world loves it. This includes a nice Chinese man who once came to have dinner with us when Sarah was a baby...he had a letter of introduction from somebody or another (my mother-in-law and one of my brothers-in-law were among the first 50 Americans invited to teach in China after the Cultural Revolution). Anyway, I was making Martha's, and I was somewhat disturbed about it because the Chinese not only dislike dairy products, but they tend toward lactose intolerance. He had three helpings, as I recall.

At any rate, without further ado:

Martha's Company Casserole (from my 1960's Good Housekeeping Cookbook)

8 oz. wide egg noodles
1 tbsp. butter
1 lb. ground chuck
2 8-oz. cans of tomato sauce
8 oz. cottage cheese
8 oz. whipped cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (1/4 inch chunks, more or less)
2 tbsps. melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Boil, then drain the noodles. While they boil, mix the two cheeses, the sour cream and the chopped scallions (include some of the green for pretty). Cook the meat (breaking it up as you go) in the 1 tbsp. of butter, drain it, and add the two cans of tomato sauce and some salt and pepper to it. Then put half the noodles in a 2 quart casserole dish. Spread the cheese mixture over them. Put the rest of the noodles on top of that, then the meat mixture on top of THAT. Pour the 2 tbsps. of butter over the top, and stick it, uncovered, into the oven for half an hour. That is all. This makes about 6 servings...there were five of us last night, and there was one tiny spoonful left.

Now, a couple of words about the recipe. It originally had some chopped green pepper in it, but I happen to roundly detest green pepper except on a street fair sausage sandwich, so I have always left it out. You may throw it in if you want it.

Now, this is very important. Peg Bracken, in the I Hate To Cook Book, remarked of one of her recipes something like, "You may be tempted to try and gussy this up. Don't. Some recipes were born complicated and some weren't, and this one wasn't." This is ABSOLUTELY true of Martha's. It is what it is. I have, over the years, been tempted to use some Bolognese sauce, maybe, in place of the plain old ground chuck, tomato sauce and salt and pepper. Or maybe throw in some garlic. But it just won't work. Martha's is for when it's been a cold, blowy, wet, snowy day and what you want is something hot and filling and plain ordinary good that doesn't take huge efforts. You may take your truffles elsewhere.

Oh, and one more warning, which may actually apply only to me. Please be careful shopping when you have been making a recipe for 45 years and usually do it with your eyes shut. I got as far as mixing the cheeses and the sour cream and the scallions last night when I looked down at the bowl and noticed some little odd yellow bits in it. Turns out that I had grabbed 8 ounces of cottage cheese AND PINEAPPLE. Luckily I got Sarah and Seth on their way over and asked them to stop at the store, so the day was saved. I had some strange notion of standing there and painstakingly picking every single tiny little pineapple crumb out, but then when I tried the cottage cheese, it still tasted all pineappley, and I assure you this does NOT improve the dish at all. The moral, of course, is READ THE LABEL, STUPID.

Other than that culinary exercise, I bounced off downtown for a couple of hours today, under the impression that I had a good two days at 21 bucks an hour (another transcription turned up for me to do), but the damn thing was so short that I knocked it off in two and a half hours. Well, rats because of the money, but good because of all the other stuff I have to do - top on the list, and coming right after breakfast and the papers tomorrow, is getting all my Medicare stuff organized and signed up for. Yay for cheap prescriptions!

So I am going to sit here and finish my beer and go to bed, because Sarah stayed over last night, and even though she woke herself up, God bless her, I (of course...once a mom...) woke up when I heard her in the bathroom at 4:30 am. I did get back to sleep for a bit, but broken sleep is broken sleep, and I'm tired. And rehearsal tomorrow night...I need to go to bed.

Hey, maybe I'll have cooked something else more or less interesting by the time I get back to this page...although I doubt it.

Love, Wendy


Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog... it is the best!
Good luck on all your endeavors,
Texas Beth

newatthis said...

Funny ... First thing I thought was "needs garlic!" I'm tempted, but I take you at your word. Tom.