Last night, I was thinking that I wanted to eat something really cozy and comforting for dinner, and I wanted it to include brussel sprouts. I thought of a recipe for a savoury bread pudding that Carly recently shared with me, but I didn’t really want to use up all my eggs and milk. Speaking of Carly and brussel sprouts, anytime brussels come up in conversation with me, Carly makes sure to let me know that she LOVES brussel sprouts, even though I am well aware of this fact because of the previous times she has emphatically told me so. I am starting to believe that this is a ploy of hers to ensure that I always think of her when I’m having brussel sprouts; I don’t know why she desires this, but it must be true. So anyways, I didn’t want to make bread pudding, but I thought I could maybe make up a pasta casserole of sorts that would satisfy my comfort craving (“Comfort Craving” to be sung to the tune of a certain k.d. lang megahit).
A couple weeks ago, Paul and I made up a casserole with cauliflower in it, so I decided that I would build off of the basic idea of that one and transform it to have other things in it – like brussel sprouts. A lot of brussel sprouts. So, I quartered some brussels and roasted them in olive oil, salt, and pepper until they were all charred and crispy and delicious. I caramelized some onions, and sauteed with them some mushrooms and garlic and spices (most notably, sage). Paul grated a lot of cheddar (grating cheese is Paul’s most frequent kitchen duty, I hate doing it). I also threw some chopped walnuts in with the veggies for this casserole – the bites of the finished product that had walnut in them were amazing, and I would add even more nuts next time. While I boiled the bowtie pasta, I made the lazyman’s cheese sauce in a double boiler over the pasta pot. This sauce consists of a big glop of sour cream (or creme fraiche, or yogurt) into which you stir your grated cheddar until it becomes melty and incorporated and uniformly a sauce. Last night I added a splash of milk to thin it out.
Meanwhile, I mixed together a breadcrumb topping. It involved some breadcrumbs, smoked paprika, cayenne, and a bunch of sesame seeds. At the last second I melted about a tablespoon of butter and mixed that into the breadcrumb mixture. I also got out my round casserole dish that I had never used, and greased it. Oh, how I love this casserole dish! I bought it this past summer at Treasures in Muskoka – if you are ever around Huntsville or the west side of Algonquin Park, you gotta go to Treasures. It’s on highway 60 and it is this amazing, crowded little thrift shop full of, well, treasures. I have beautiful green glasses that I got from there, among other things, and this year I bought this brown tinted glass casserole dish with lid and a wicker holding basket. I love it. I love coloured glass and I love wicker casserole dish holder thingys.
When the pasta was al dente, I drained it, and tossed it with the veggies I had earlier set aside (i.e. the onions, mushroom, brussel sprouts, etc.) and then added the cheese sauce and mixed until evenly coated. I poured that into my greased casserole dish, topped with the breadcrumb mixture and some extra grated cheddar. Then I baked it at 400 for about 20 minutes, put it on broil for a couple minutes, and took it out (where I promptly and happily put it in its wicker warmer holder).
This pasta was SO GOOD. My nighttime bad-lighting photos do not do it justice, but then again, photos rarely do a casserole justice. It was brussel-y and sage-y and breadcrumb-y and smoky and hearty and Paul and I nearly ate the entire dish full, but Paul put away his last half-plateful and I cannot wait to eat it with my dinner tonight. This, I suspect, will become a standby this winter.