One of those casseroles, revisited

I am hell of tired after working a 12.5 hour day, 6 hours of which were spent with the client (and although this is a good client that I like, I tire of my own good behavior and mouth-watching after about 45 minutes). I came home after driving three hours with a raging headache and a bit of nausea, and needed a little horizontal couch time before I could do anything.

But some of you seemed genuinely interested in my ham and cheese orzo casserole (gluttons for punishment, you lot), so I’ll write the recipe for you as best as I can. This was a hip-shooter, so forgive me if it yields a slightly different picture for you. This, by the by, is why I rarely post any recipes, ever. I don’t cook from them, and I don’t write them as I go.

Ham and Cheese Orzo Casserole
Serves 4-6

I dunno, like two cups of orzo? I shook some out of my huge jar.
4-ish cups of chicken stock?
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup half & half + 1.5 cups hot water (or 2 cups milk, which we never have)
2 big handfuls of grated cheese – I used sharp cheddar and Gruyère
8 oz-ish of diced ham (I cubed up 3 slices that were 4″ in diameter and 1/2″ thick)
2 cups(?) chopped broccoli florets (it was one crown’s worth)
2 baby bok choys sliced into chiffonade (you nudge this into every meal these days because you bought a huge bag, which is the only way Fubonn sells it)
a handful of green beans that you really should use up before they go bad
French fried onions (Trader Joe’s makes good ones), or panko, or seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. Cook the orzo in the stock, simmering gently and adding more hot water as needed, until all the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is just a nit past al dente. Remove from heat.

While the orzo is cooking, prepare the Mornay sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour, whisking until blended and cooking until golden and nutty-smelling (this is roux, for the noobs). Remove from the heat and add the half & half/water (or milk), whisking until flawlessly creamy and lump-free (this is Béchamel, for the noobs). This step is expedited by the use of an immersion blender, FYI. Yes, I’m admitting it, and don’t look at me like that. When the sauce is perfectly blended, return to the heat, reduce temp to low, and simmer and bubble for about 10 minutes, or until the floury taste is cooked out. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheeses (save some to sprinkle on top) and S&P.

Mix the Mornay sauce into the cooked orzo and stir in the ham and veg. Pour into your favorite hand-me-down casserole that your Grandma Laverne used to use (and was probably purchased with Green Stamps saved up from all those trips to IGA). Top with the remaining cheese and crispety topping. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is starting to bubble over and leave those nice browned bubbly streaks down the side of the crock, and the crispety topping is all golden and crispety.

Like I said, I can’t guarantee your results. It takes a little finesse, this casserole business. If you try the recipe and it fails miserably (I doubt that will happen – it’s ham and cheese and pasta, for fuck’s sake), just let me know and I’ll help troubleshoot.