My Sis is at the Ole Miss/LSU game today---they drove from Texas with Nephew #2, picked up Nephew #1 at the Little Rock airport, and arrived at Niece's condo yesterday in time to make up great lots of tailgate food. They'll drive home Monday with all the kids plus Niece's fella, and have the whole family over for Thanksgiving.
They also have Spurs tickets for Wednesday night, for the WHOLE clan---about a dozen of them. THEN they'll all cook together on Thursday (one nephew is a chef) and have a late dinner. (I think a rousing evening of Texas Hold 'Em is on the agenda, as well).
I envy that, and want to do that---or something similar, since I do not follow sports. But I've been a Martha all my life, looking after things and cooking things and enjoying company and cleaning up after. I wouldn't know HOW to leave home on the night before a big holiday meal. Somehow, my circuits are wired for preparation and doing and all the necessaries leading up to a family gathering---I don't think I could even go to the OPERA on a holiday's eve.
Of course, this doesn't mean I've made one single effort in the getting ready for this one. Sis is probably way ahead of me on things made and in the freezer; she e-mailed this week for this make-ahead casserole, which is SUPER rich and easy to make. It's strictly Southern, in all the shortcuts and the Paula-pounds of butter and the thick cheese sauce.
She's serving twelve, I think, so I made this to fit a slightly-smaller than 9x13 pyrex---if your Dinner is anytime before four or five o’clock, everybody will want to fix another plate before bedtime, anyway---thus the generous leftovers.
And you know by now that I tell off recipes just like I talk:
5 cans Green Giant tall spears
1 stick butter
¼ c. flour
Nice spoonclop of mayo
Sprinkle powdered garlic
1 or 2 cups grated cheddar
A sleeve of Ritz plus about six more; crush them all, but not to powder.
Another stick of butter
Butter a big flat casserole dish---Corning or glass or metal. Sprinkle a handful of the crumbs in bottom of casserole.
Open cans, leave lids in place, and drain all the liquid into a quart measuring cup.
If it hits the 3-cup level, OK---if not, fill it on up to 3 with milk or water. Set this aside.
Put butter into 10” or bigger nonstick skillet and melt gently. Stir in flour, and keep stirring while it bubbles a bit to cook out the flour taste---do NOT let it brown---gentle heat. Stir it with a flat paddle if you have one---scrape and keep it moving.
Get your whisk ready. Pour all the liquid in, stirring gently with whisk---it will take a few minutes on low heat for it to come together and thicken. Take it off heat and stir in the cheese, let it sit a minute to melt a bit, then whisk in---it will get silky, and even more when you whisk in the mayo and garlic.
Take cans to sink, hold lids on, and shake a coupla times to let out the bit of liquid left. Then hold can crosswise over casserole and shake out half gently. Move down a bit---ditto, with two of the cans til bottom is sorta covered. Spread on half the sauce, then repeat with rest of spears, then sauce.
Cool thoroughly, Saran, Foil, and freeze.
For topping, put the other stick of butter in skillet and melt. Stir in Ritz crumbs and keep stirring for a while, til you can smell the nutty, toasty scent develop. Take off heat, cool on a plate, and bag up for later, if you need to. Just stick the baggie flat between Saran and foil and stick it all in the freezer. Or just make topping the day before or day of your dinner. Don’t put it on til you’re ready to bake.
Take out of freezer and thaw. Leave Saran on, microwave til you see steam droplets forming beneath wrap. Remove Saran. Sprinkle on the crumbs. Oven 350 for 30---40 minutes til “gold and bubbly.” Serves a BUNCH.
PS on Sunday: I've had a comment from a Dear Reader that she does not like asparagus---this casserole is Perfectly SCRUMPTIOUS with squash---same recipe, only use milk in place of the can juices for the sauce, and you'll need to salt the sauce to taste. Saute a couple of pounds of yellow crookneck rings with about a quarter as much chopped onion til almost soft, salt it a bit, then go from there. And it, like a lot of good things Southern, profits in taste and color from a small jar of chopped pimiento drained and stirred into the sauce.
Mother always liked to arrange a little layer of sliced boiled eggs betwixt the two squash layers, as well. Rich and delicious.