I can always tell when I'm about to hit one out of the ball park because my kitchen looks like it got hit by a bomb. And this is exactly the way I like it! I am at that stage in late summer where I can't stand the idea of eating one more slab of anything off the grill. But the weather is still warm and I'm not ready for roast beef and mashed potatoes quite yet either. Plus we've been bringing in the garden for the past four weeks and I feel like my life is one giant steam bath. At any given time, all four burners on the stove are at various stages of canning. We've put up 60 jars of tomatoes and 40 jars of green beans. Pickled and not pickled. (Many times during these long nights of canning, I wished I was the pickled one!) And this doesn't count all the jars I've already given away to family and friends. The wine grapes are all off the vine and in the fermenting stage. So an abundant harvest in all. Lots and lots of work, but so worth it as the long winter draws near, and I can reap the benefits with fresh tasting dishes all throughout. And that lovely homemade wine will be a dear and trusted friend for months to come!
So tonight I really felt like I wanted to cook something delicious. I wanted a challenge with steps and stages and flavours and sauce. I wanted the thrill of having to dig deep into the spice cupboard for things that don't go on a steak, and to reach up high to the top shelf and use flour for the first time since I don't know when! To have to chop and dice and mince and whisk! All the joyful things that come from actually cooking again! And to be able to sit and relax and enjoy a meal without jumping up forty times to put things in and out of constantly boiling pots of water.
So for this recipe, you will need:
24 jumbo pasta shells, boiled for about 15 minutes until they're al dente.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms.
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 pound of crab meat. (I had to use imitation because I'm allergic to crab. Poor me!)
1 1lb block of Gruyere cheese, shredded and divided in half
4 sliced green onions
1/4 cup of flour
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
a dash of nutmeg
1/3 cup of brandy
3 cups or so of milk
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
chopped fresh parsley
While your pasta is boiling, shred your cheese and slice your green onion and chop up your crab. Not too fine. Chunky is good.
Drain the pasta and set aside.
Saute the mushrooms in the butter and add the minced garlic after a couple of minutes. Medium heat.
Put your onion, crab and half the cheese in a bowl. When the mushrooms are golden, add them to the bowl, but leave all the butter in the pan.
Season the ingredients in the bowl with a bit of salt and pepper and stir them around.
Add the butter pan back to Medium heat and add the flour. Whisk this roux until it becomes golden. About 4 minutes. (Notice how I used a French cooking word? That's because I'm Thrilled to be cooking again!)
Now add the brandy. And don't be afraid because it will all separate into weird little brown clumps. Now keeping on whisking, add the milk gradually as it comes up to a simmer. It will thicken as you go along. Season with the nutmeg and some more salt and pepper. Taste it. Don't overdo it!
When it has come to the simmer, remove from the heat and add the other half of the cheese and just stir it in.
Add about half a cup of this sauce to the mixture in the bowl. Just to moisten it. Mix it in and get ready to stuff your shells.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Take each shell and fill it with the mixture and set it in the casserole dish with the stuffing side up.
Now add the rest of the sauce to cover all the shells and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over that and then sprinkle the parsley over it. Cover the dish and bake for about 20 minutes. Then uncover it and bake for another 15 minutes to let the breadcrumbs brown.
This dish is a labour of love and people will beg you to make it all the time. But don't spoil them! It's fun and easy to make, but only you have to know that. So serve it up when you feel like you want to be lavished with attention and compliments, and foot messages and such like that! Cheers!