Baked Shells and Broccoli with Ham and Cheesy-Creamy Cauliflower Sauce from Martha Stewart Living, February 2012

Well, if you’ve read the title you already know everything there is to know about this dish so we might as well just go on home. What ever happened to creative naming?

This is why Hubby hates watching movies with me. He says I’ve ruined him because I approach what I watch with such a critical eye. Bad acting and script, yes, we all dislike those things (I hope), but what makes me cringe even more is bad editing in an otherwise good movie or television show.

For instance, have you seen Red Dawn? Russia invades a small U.S. town and the high school kids fight back? It’s actually a pretty decent, fun movie. But what I really remember is the scene in which Patrick Swayze is crying and blows an amazingly disgusting snot bubble. The camera catches it close up and the thing isn’t edited out. Gag.

When we watch movies, I’m constantly pointing out stuff like the hole from Bratt Pitt’s pierced ear (A River Runs Through It), the reflection of the cobra in the glass separating it from Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and miscellaneous editing bloopers like clothing and body positions changed from one shot to the next. I don’t understand why this stuff isn’t caught and taken care of.

I do the same to Hubby when I come across recipe titles like this one. I’ll wave the magazine in front of him and proceed with full rant about the process (or lack thereof) involved in giving recipes their titles. Is this really as creative as the writers at Martha Stewart Living could get when coming up with a name for this dish?

The Process

Since you already know everything that goes into this dish, there’s no need to re-hash. Instead, I’ll just point out a few things that I might have overlooked when I made the dish.

First, under cook the pasta. Because you’ll be doing other things, it’s easy to forget about that bubbling pot and the next thing you know, ten minutes have gone by. The shells only need five minutes. They’ll finish cooking in the oven.

Second, it’s really hard to cook dry ingredients like cauliflower, shallots and garlic in just a little olive oil for ten minutes and not have them start to brown. And, if they do start to brown, they’ll also start to get a little bitter. Keep the heat nice and low. If browning even seems to be starting, add a tablespoon of water.

Finally, unless you’re really good at doing that flippy thing with a skillet, when you’re toasting the panko crumbs, be very careful or just use a wooden spoon to move them around. It really does make a mess.

The Verdict

Even though I think the idea of incorporating cauliflower into a sauce is wonderful this didn’t go over well at our table. It received a thumbs down from Hubby, who isn’t a big cheese person at the best of times and very much not with the hard Italian cheeses that have more tang and sharpness to them (he says they smell like feet).

Dudette said the dish was ok and ate her way through her plateful, but something about it kicked her gag reflex in and she was done. I thought this was passable, but there is something that gives a bitter undertone to the casserole that wasn’t enjoyable. I tasted the cauliflower sauce prior to adding the cheese and it was fantastic, so yes, I think it was the addition of the cheese.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I’d replace the pecorino in the sauce with a less pungent cheese, maybe something as mild as Mozzarella, and then sprinkle a half cup of the pecorino on top.

Baked Shells and Broccoli with Ham and Cheesy-Creamy Cauliflower Sauce from Martha Stewart Living, February 2012
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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Recipe type: Casserole
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cored and chopped (3 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 4 medium shallots, roughly chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups skim milk
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 ounces pecorino cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • ½ pound medium multigrain pasta shells
  • ¼ pound sliced smoked ham, chopped
  • 1 medium bunch broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets (5 cups)
  • ½ cup toasted whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cauliflower, garlic, shallots, and ½ teaspoon salt; cook until softened but not brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour; stir to coat well.
  2. Gradually stir in milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; gently simmer until cauliflower is very soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer all to a blender, and puree with nutmeg and half the pecorino until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until slightly tender but not fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain well; return to pot. Add ham, broccoli, and cauliflower sauce; toss to combine. Transfer to a ovenproof 3½-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino, and bake until bubbling in center, about 30 minutes. Heat broiler, and broil until golden brown on top, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Divide among dishes, top with breadcrumbs, and serve immediately.
What I'd Do Different Next Time
I'd replace the pecorino in the sauce with a less pungent cheese, maybe something as mild as Mozzarella, and then sprinkle a half cup of the pecorino on top.

 

Potato Scones from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, February 2012

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Occasionally two random things come together to create awesomeness. Some of these pairings become famous. Take, for example, chocolate and peanut butter; Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; ninjas and turtles; Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony.

Wait, you’ve not heard Metallica’s album with the Symphony? Oh, my friends, you do need to check it out. I can only handle one song at a time because, well, I’m old, but it’s such good music.

Mixing together potatoes and scones is another one of those pairings that you wouldn’t expect but you really do need to check out. From the minute I saw the recipe I knew I’d be making it.  C’mon. It’s potatoes and cheese fried in butter. What can go wrong?

The Process
The potato scone is not a Martha Stewart brainchild, but hails from Scotland. So, while you’re munching on this goody, you can easily be contemplating what exactly is under those kilts that the Scots wear. Martha does take the recipe up a notch by including a bit of cheese in her recipe. But still; contemplate the kilt.

After boiling the potatoes, they need to be mashed. Martha recommends what’s called a ricer, which is what I used. The idea is to get the potatoes as lump-free as possible. If you use a regular hand-held masher, work hard to mash up everything very well. If you need to borrow my ricer, just give me a call.

Butter gets added, then dry ingredient, then the ‘dough’ is put on a floured dough and rolled out. I loosely call this dough because it is so very fragile and soft. Use a gentle hand when working with it or you’ll get frustrated. Also keep flouring the rolling pin. Really.

I cooked my scones in my cast iron griddle and had room for just three at a time. Again, I had to be very careful in handling and flipping them as they are soft, even once the crispy crust forms. Yeah, there’s a crispy crust. And cheese. Do you see it oozing out from that bottom scone?

The Verdict
Fantastic. I love the idea of such a non-traditional scone for breakfast. The texture is unique. The little bursts of cheese are wonderful and made me so glad that the cheese was diced instead of grated. Hubby and I enjoyed this immensely and the friend that stopped by just at the right time also said that she thought they were excellent. This little scone is definitely a keeper.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’d definitely have bacon and eggs surrounding the scone on that plate. If I were to remove this from the traditional potato scone category, I’d add caramelized onions.

Potato Sconesprint this recipe
from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, February 2012

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus 2 teaspoons for skillet
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 pound Tipperary cheese or sharp white cheddar, diced small (about 1/3 inch)

Bring potatoes to a boil in a pot of lightly salted water. Reduce heat, and simmer until fork tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.

While still warm, push potatoes through the large holes of a ricer, or use a potato masher to mash them until smooth (you should have 2 1/2 cups). Stir butter into warm potatoes until combined well. Stir together flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then stir into potatoes with a wooden spoon until just combined. Form dough into a ball on a lightly floured work surface. Cover with a dish towel, and let cool for 20 minutes.

Dust rolling pin and work surface with flour, and roll out dough to an 8-by-10-inch rectangle. Sprinkle half with cheese, and fold to create a 4-by-10-inch rectangle. Gently roll out. With a floured knife, cut dough into four 2 1/2-by-4-inch rectangles, then cut each in half diagonally.

Heat a griddle or a large cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat, and add 1 teaspoon butter. When it has completely melted and is sizzling, cook 4 scones until golden brown and cheese melts, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Keep scones warm in a 200-degree oven while you cook the remaining dough.

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