Friday, December 5, 2008

ham & rice cassarole

Yup, I used the "c" word... "cassarole". It's not such a bad word, in fact, it actually brings on a nice warm feeling of comfort and happiness. That is, unless you're at a church potluck supper and just counted 45 different ways to combine elbow macaroni, tomato sauce and ground beef...

This is an easy dish that can be frozen for future use, makes a great dish-to-past (hey, it IS a cassarole), or is great just served up in a bowl, and attacked with a spoon.

ham & rice cassarole

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp pure olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 c. uncooked rice (no 'minute' or boil-in-bag, please... use the real stuff... like Japanese rice)
2 c. ham, diced (we like turkey ham for this dish)
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 qt. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2-3/4 c. grated parmesan (the stuff in the green can works great for this)
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. Set your oven rack to the middle position, and heat your oven to 375°F... being sure you remember to remove your 12" cast iron skillet first. (What? It's the only good place to store it.)

2. In a 4-6 qt. pot over low heat, sweat the onion in the butter and olive oil, along with a pinch of kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.
3. Halfway through the sweat, stir in the garlic.
4. When the onion appears cooked, but not browned, stir in the rice, ham and parsley. Lightly sauté the rice and ham for 3-4 minutes. This will start to cook the rice, and give the finished dish a subtle nutty flavor.
5. Gently pour in the chicken broth and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring everything up to a boil. If you'd prefer a more risotto-like texture, add one cup of broth at a time, stirring until most of it is absorbed by the rice, then repeat with the next cup of broth. Once all the broth is in, bring to a boil.
6. Once it hits a boil, cut the heat and transfer the mixture to a baking dish, and sprinkle the grated parmesan evenly over the top.
7. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, remove the lid and return to the oven for five additional minutes to crust up the top a bit, then remove and let stand for 5-10 minutes.

Leftovers are freezer-friendly, and reheat easily in the microwave. Just portion out one serving in a microwave-safe bowl, and nuke of medium for two minutes. Remove, stir and nuke on high for an addition minute or two.

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