Plan B

Dinner:  November 27, 2007

As I’ve mentioned here before, I generally plan our meals for the week in advance, sketching out which meal I want to serve on which night, but leaving a little wiggle room in case we need to switch things up. I had a porktastic duo scheduled for last night, utilizing some of the leftover roast pork I made over the weekend, as well as some delicious baked ham from a previous meal, which I had pulled from the freezer and thawed. I’m not kidding you when I say I was excited for this dinner – I thought about it all day and my mouth was watering. I Could. Not. Wait.

So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I got home from work, headed into the kitchen, flung open the refrigerator door to get started and realized that at some point over the last few days, I had put the remaining pork roast into the freezer.

Say it with me, people: “GAAAAAAH!”

My beautiful leftover roast pork was solid as a rock, and with no good way to defrost it quickly, the dinner I had been craving all day would have to wait. And I needed to come up with a Plan B, fast.

We didn’t have anything else thawed that I could prepare instead. I didn’t want to do yet another risotto. I’ve got a pasta dish scheduled for tonight, and while Mike and I both love the stuff, having pasta two nights in a row wasn’t really appealing to us. The takeout options in our little corner of Bushwick aren’t great, and to go out to eat would require us to get on a bus or train for 20 minutes or more. It was late, I was tired, and I just didn’t want to deal with it.

Mike mixed us each a Jack Rose and we sat and thought about what to do. We had enough ham that I could use some of it tonight and still have enough left over for future use. We had potatoes. We had plenty of dairy – butter and cream, and we’ve always got cheese. Why not make a gratin?

I pulled out my deep baking dish, buttered it, set the oven temp to 400, and started chopping, ending up with about 2 cups of ham, cut into about 1/2 inch cubes, and about 4 cups of small Yukon Golds, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds. I placed one layer of potato slices in the bottom of the baking dish, sprinkled the ham on top, and then scattered about a cup of grated gruyere over that. I topped it with a layer of the remaining potato slices. I whisked together 12 oz. of half and half, 1/2 cup of crème fraiche, salt, black pepper and a teaspoon of Colman’s mustard powder, added a cup of little green peas I had blanched and frozen over the summer, and poured it over the potatoes and ham. I sealed the baking dish with foil, and put it in the oven for 40 minutes, then pulled it out, removed the foil, added another layer of grated gruyere, some grated parmesan and fresh thyme, and placed it back in the oven for about 15 minutes until the top was golden and bubbly.

I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out, and I have to say the next time I make a gratin I will take the extra step of making an actual Mornay sauce for it, but despite the rather “broken” cream sauce I ended up with here and the fact that it’s not the prettiest thing I’ve made, our dinner was a tasty, filling, and satisfying meal – not at all bad for a last minute substitution.

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11 thoughts on “Plan B

  1. Jennifer, I sympathize with that sudden lack of a key ingredient throwing a monkey wrench into dinner plans. I have to say, though, your Plan B looks like a delicious Plan A by most people’s standards.

  2. I hate when that happens! In my world it’s less about the ingredient being frozen and more about the ingredient having gone bad.
    You’re second choice, as Terry says, looks better than most people’s first choices! Good on ya guys for cobbling together something delicious!

  3. Aw man! I feel you pain, though the gratin looks so yummy! (P.S. I’m dying to know where you live . I feel that we are true neighboors. We live in the area of Brooklyn that is alternately called “East Williamsburg” and “Bushwick”, we go to all of the same restaurants, etc.)

  4. again and again i will tell you that of all the blogs – i look at your food longingly, day after day. you absolutely are the most inspring cook that i read. thanks jennifer. this looks like a wonderful dinner.

    but what i want right now are those thanksgiving morning eggs…

  5. by the way… you’d be hardpressed to fuck up potatoes, ham, cheese, cream and peas… and then fresh thyme? just perfect…

    i need to check my lottery numbers from tonight to see if i got the $150 million. then i hire you. it is my dream…

  6. Jennifer Hess says:

    Food Hunter – welcome, and thanks!

    Terry – Thank you! I have to say, I’m probably going to play with gratins more in the future after this experience. Seems like they’re another nice way to use little odds and ends of veggies and protein you have lingering about.

    ann – Ha ha! The only time I really wish we had a microwave is when I’ve forgotten to thaw something ahead of time. 🙂

    Rebecca – We’re right near Broadway and Myrtle, off the J/M/Z – the kids are calling it SoBu, I hear. 🙂

    claudia, claudia, claudia – you make me blush! Thank you. I’d be happy to cook for you (or with you!) any time.

  7. Oh, yes, that sinking feeling when you realize you don’t have what you thought you had. I hate it when I look forward to something All Day and then discover I can’t have it. A potato-ham gratin, though, would make up for almost anything in my book.

    I almost never bother to make a cream sauce for my gratins – I usually do just what you did, with the cheese and the cream/creme fraiche separate in the pan, and it works fine (though not as wonderful a texture). I do usually precook my vegetables, because some of the potatoes (or cauliflower, or whatever) inevitably stay crunchy otherwise, yuck. I probably don’t bake it long enough.

  8. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi Jessamyn! Yeah, it was certainly a lot easier to just toss everything together. And one less pan to clean up, which was a bonus that night. 🙂

    I do sometimes blanch my veggies before I gratin them, but I also usually cook them uncovered. I think what helped the potatoes get tender this time was cooking them under the foil for most of the baking time – trapping the steam probably helped cook them through more quickly.

  9. joey says:

    how was this sauce “broken?” what’s a Mornay sauce?

    p.s. i like reading your blog before i head to the farmer’s market myself! it’s an invitation to go for ingredients i might not know what to do with otherwise! thanks =D

  10. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi Joey – thanks and welcome!

    By “broken” I mean that as the sauce cooked, the solids in the cheese and cream separated a bit from the liquid parts, so rather than a smooth sauce-like texture, I ended up with more of a cottage cheesey effect. Still tasty, but not as pretty to look at. 🙂 A Mornay sauce is basically a bechamel sauce (butter, flour and milk) with cheeses incorporated in – I think traditionally a mix of gruyere and parmesan.

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