Menu planning dinner parties is challenging, even for the most experienced cooks. There must be a variety of food so everyone has at least something they can eat. Then, you need to organize preparation to ensure everything is done at the same time. Yikes!
Particularly troublesome is vegetable selection – once cooked, many need to be eaten promptly, since they begin to decline in taste. As soon as my steamed broccoli or roasted carrots are ready, I’m like a mad woman trying to get everyone to the table so they can enjoy the food at its peak of flavor. (For some strange and irritating reason, the announcement that dinner is served seems to provoke a desire in my husband to use the bathroom.)
I serve two vegetables, one generally being SPINACH RAREBIT. Not only is it delicious, but it can be prepared a day or two ahead. I LOVE THOSE RECIPES!!!
But wait, there’s more! It’s forgiving in terms of cooking temperature, so if something is in the oven at a different temperature, go ahead and add the SPINACH RAREBIT anyway – just adjust the time a bit. Plus, as if that’s not enough, it retains its flavor throughout the meal – even for the next couple of days as leftovers. It’s the perfect party dish!
Did you notice I said ‘party dish’? That’s because SPINACH RAREBIT is a little labor intensive. It’s not hard – just takes time. Not that my husband and kids aren’t worth it….but, let’s be honest – we pull out the big guns for company.
NOTE: You can save time by buying frozen Welsh rarebit (Stouffer’s makes it). Of course, I encourage you to make your own – you can save money, adjust to your taste, AND you know what’s in your food!
SPINACH RAREBIT – will serve at least 8 people
- 24 oz frozen chopped spinach
- 8 oz can water chestnuts, chopped in bite sized bits
- 6 oz canister French fried onions – (I use French’s)
- 4 slices fake bacon – (I use Morningstar)
- Welsh rarebit (recipe follows) – if you buy frozen, you’ll need two 10 oz packages
Oven bake the bacon 15 minutes at 375º, flipping midway. Remove from oven and let sit so it gets crispy. If you have a toasteroven, use it – no point in heating up a big oven for 4 slices of fake bacon.
Rinse spinach in a sieve, then squeeze out water. Wrap in paper towel, then wrap that in an absorbent towel, such a terry cloth. You want to get rid of as much water as you can.
In a large bowl, combine spinach, water chestnuts, and enough Welsh Rarebit Sauce (recipe below) to moisten mixture. Pour this into a casserole dish big enough to hold everything (I use a 10.5″ x 7.5″), smoothing top.
Spread remaining Welsh Rarebit Sauce on top, completely covering spinach mix. Crumble bacon and sprinkle on top. Add the French fried onions (you don’t have to use the entire amount). Cover with foil. Casserole can be refrigerated at this point and baked later – I leave off the onions until just before cooking to make sure they’ll be crispy (not sure it matters).
Bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 5 minutes.
Welsh Rarebit Sauce
- 4 T butter
- 4 T flour
- 2 cups milk (I use nonfat)
- 6 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 T chili powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 T vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
Melt butter in a saucepan. Turn off flame. Add in flour and work a little of the flour into the melted butter at a time, making a smooth paste. Do this slowly, preferably using a flat headed wooden stirrer. This is the only time you’ll be able to prevent lumps. Keep going until all the flour is incorporated (see photos below). Add in the mustard, paprika, and chili powder. Then cook paste for another minute or two, mashing out any lumps from the spices.
Pour in milk and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until thickened. Turn off flame. Add in cheese, salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to blend. Adjust seasoning, if desired.