simple fare

Childhood recipes reimagined

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 4/21/20

Neither my mother nor my father has any recollection of a ham-custard-noodle casserole from my childhood. But I do.

The dish was a simple one. It had thin egg noodles with shredded ham that was …

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simple fare

Childhood recipes reimagined

Posted

Neither my mother nor my father has any recollection of a ham-custard-noodle casserole from my childhood. But I do.

The dish was a simple one. It had thin egg noodles with shredded ham that was baked in a light custard.

When I asked my mother about it the other day, she laughed. “I haven’t made ham in 30 years.” After a second, she mused that we always had ham for Easter and that there were always leftovers.

“Do you remember it?” I asked. “It was simple. The ham was shredded up.”

“Vaguely,” she said. “I’m sure it’s not a recipe I made up; I didn’t do that sort of thing. And if it’s not in one cookbook, it’s in another.

And that was that; she promised to look for the recipe and send it to me.

What arrived a few minutes later were two emails, each with a digital picture attached. “If it’s not this one; it’s the next one I am sending.

When that one was sent, she admitted that maybe she combined the two recipes. One was a noodle ham casserole with cream soup. The other was a ham timbale. A delicate custard, with ham.

And so, I fudged it.

I boiled a bag of noodles—I only had medium, not the thin ones. Already I was deviating from the memory. I used the timbale ratio of eggs and milk. I added a heaping tablespoon of parmesan cheese because in my memory the custard had a light cheese flavor.

Memories are like that: vague, yet precise.

The timbale recipe called for baking the pan in water. When I teased my mother in a thank you email, “Wow, cooked in water. She quickly replied, “I never bothered with a water bath.”

And that was that. I popped it in the oven.

The casserole I remembered was higher, and I think was more custardy. Next time, I will try using more milk. Nonetheless, the ham custard noodle casserole that Stephen and I shared last night did not disappoint. Plus, there is plenty for leftovers and lunch.

Basically, this recipe is like a quiche that uses noodles and has no crust.

Check out the additional noodle recipes from my mother’s Betty Crocker cookbook online at www.riverreporter.com/simplefare. The vintage cookbook is in a three-ring binder that she covered with contact paper in the 1970s. The different sections are separated by tabs.

Do you have a childhood food memory? Hop over to www.facebook.com/trrsimplefare to join the conversation.

Ham custard noodle casserole

(Makes about nine servings)
1 12 oz. bag of noodles, boiled and drained
2 tablespoons of butter
4 eggs
6 oz. cooked ham, shredded
1 can of milk, plus 2/3 cup water (or 2 cups whole milk)
6 oz cooked ham, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Boil water and cook noodles, just short of the required time. Drain and dump into prepared pan. Add butter and toss. Add ham and combine evenly.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, add milk and water. (I always put the water in the can to rinse out the milk residue.) If you are using whole milk, add 2 cups. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the pan with the noodles and ham. Shake pan gently to distribute. Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes until middle is puffed. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Variations: The variations are endless. You could easily add any small chunked veggie: peas, sautéed diced carrots, peppers, onions, zucchini. You could substitute tuna (with celery), shredded shrimp, cooked chicken, sausage.

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