Friday, November 28, 2014

Asparagus Casserole

I was so excited to learn that Hamilton Beach decided to be a sponsor for us. We have all grown up with their great array of products, some of which I have had in my kitchen for years. If you haven't checked them out lately you really should. They are on the cutting edge of everything you need to make some great recipes from 37 Cooks and your own collection.

I am not sure how long my Dad had been making this for us, but I do know I fell in love with it in my 13th year. That's when I started doing more in the kitchen and was actually encouraged to do so. Dad would only make this at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remember having a spoonful and realizing that I really liked the whole she-bang. I was kinda picky back then and would only eat certain things out of casseroles. I was really impressed with MY Dad cooking this!

When I left home and joined the US Air Force, I was initially stationed in the Philippines. That's a long way from Texas, y'all. We were able to use a community kitchen while in the dorms and my first Thanksgiving I wanted to make this for everyone. I called Dad for the recipe. Overseas phone calls aren't any fun when you have delays and start talking at the same time. I missed a lot! I heard canned cheese soup, canned asparagus, boiled eggs, and crackers. I ended up using the wrong crackers and didn't drain the asparagus. It was horrible. All of us ate it, because we cooked our own Thanksgiving feast, but oh my, it WAS horrible.

Years later, I decided I wanted to try this again. After much fiddling around, I decided that you could start with a béchamel, par-boiled asparagus and boiled eggs. But, don't tell my Dad. He thinks I still make it his way! Do not forget the RITZ crackers! That is the only thing I cannot and will not make from scratch!

To save some time, boil your eggs ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you need them. You can also par-boil the asparagus and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Asparagus Casserole
by Traci

8 large eggs boiled, peeled and chopped
3 pounds asparagus, dead ends cut off and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 sleeves of Ritz crackers, crushed

Boil water in a large stock pot. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Boil the asparagus for 2 minutes and then remove the stalks to the ice water. Once cooled, place in a colander, drain well, and set aside.

Cheddar Béchamel
Adapted from Leite's Culinaria Bechamel Sauce

makes 2 cups of sauce

3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar
*lemon zest (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over a low-medium heat. Add your flour, whisking gently. Add the milk, a little at a time, to avoid getting lumps.
When all of the milk is added, season with salt, pepper, and lemon zest (if using). Add half the cheese while whisking the whole time. Add the rest of your cheese, stir,  and turn off the heat. Set aside to cool.

Butter the bottom of the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Create layers and add some cracker crumbs, then some asparagus, then egg and top with béchamel. Continue this until you get to end of the béchamel. And add some more cracker crumbs to top it off.

Cook on the low setting for about 4 hours and then the warm setting until you serve. The warm setting is a wonderful feature on this slow cooker. I hope you try this out and all of our recipes at 37 Cooks.

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