I have a confession to make. I've got some serious casserole woes.
Perhaps it's because about the closest thing to a casserole I had growing up was lasagna. Perhaps it's because when I first moved out on my own and really started cooking, I didn't have a working oven. Who knows why these things happen. But, just ask my husband... casseroles are a challenge for me.
My husband loves casseroles. So, occasionally, I try and go outside my comfort zone and make the guy a dish. Of course, it doesn't help that his favorite casserole, named - if you can believe - Dump Casserole - is a mixture of ingredients I just can't hardly bear to put into one dish.
Yet, I've got to try and help a guy out, and it's been a little bit of a rocky road. Some have turned out OK, some... haven't. But I keep trying. Fortunately, pasta casseroles are a little less daunting to me, I guess because I never really considered them casseroles. But, alas, this little dish I put together for my husband the other night turned out great. It's creamy and cheesy (which is never a bad thing, in my book). I love the combination of the shallot and spinach and how the hint of sherry brings out the best from the scallops.
Yup, this casserole, at least, was a smashing success.
Spinach and Scallop Casserole
Yield: 6-8 servings
3 cups elbow pasta (large elbows if you can find them)
1 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb bay scallops
3 TBS olive oil
3 TBS flour
2 cups warm milk (whole, preferably)
2 TBS cream sherry
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup thawed and pressed chopped frozen spinach
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Boil the pasta as instructed on the package until just al dente. Drain and hold until ready to use. If your pasta is ready way before your sauce is, add a little drizzle of oil to the pasta once it's drained to keep it from sticking together too much.
In a skillet, over medium to medium-high heat, saute the shallots and garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil. When the shallot is soft and starting to brown slightly, add the scallops and saute just until they are barely cooked. They cook very quickly, so give them your full attention while cooking them. Turn off the heat and let cool while preparing the sauce.
In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 TBS of olive oil and then stir in the flour. Cook for a minute or so and then add the warm milk slowly, stirring the whole time. Slow is the key if you do not want a lumpy sauce. Continue stirring over medium heat until the milk thickens and just starts to boil. Turn off the heat and add the sherry, cheeses (reserve a small bit of cheese to sprinkle on top of the casserole), and spinach. Stir to distribute the ingredients and then add the drained pasta and scallop mixture. Mix and then pour into a greased 9x13 (or similar) pan. Sprinkle the remaining bit of cheese on top.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and bubbly. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.