Molded Casserole of Ham and Mushrooms with Macaroni, Cheese, and Cream With Tomato Cream Sauce

Simca’s Cuisine – A Simone Beck Recipe

Since moving to my mother-in-law’s house, I have been perusing her cookbooks and came across this one by Simone Beck.  Simone “Simca” Beck (7 July 1904 in Normandy, France – 20 December 1991) was a French cookbook author and cooking teacher who, along with colleagues Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle, played a significant role in the introduction of French cooking technique and recipes into American kitchens. After Beck met Julia Child in 1949, they had the idea of writing a French cookbook for Americans. She, Child, and Bertholle wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking; it was published in 1961.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II (without Louisette Bertholle) followed in 1970, elaborating on several subjects (particularly baking and charcuterie) that the authors felt had received insufficient coverage in the first volume.

In 1972 she published her own cookbook, Simca’s Cuisine (with Patricia Simon), using, among others, some of the recipes that had not been included in her previous books with Child and Bertholle.  Skillfully adapting French ways to American needs, Simca’s Cuisine presents over one hundred recipes in thirty-one alluring menus designed for every sort of occasion, from the informal “earthy dinner for high-spirited friends” – centered around a cassoulet with duck and hot sausages – to the ornate “spectacular dinner with champagne” that begins with salmon or striped bass in brioche.

I found this recipe for Molded Casserole of Ham, Mushrooms with Macaroni, Cheese and Cream.  The worded “molded” makes it sound unappealing, but it actually looks good.

Charlotte Rainfreville au jambon avec Sauce Crème Aurore

Serves 6

Butter and stale bread crumbs to coat the mold
1 cup elbow macaroni (to make 2 cups cooked)
6 oz cooked ham, cut into ¼” dice
½ lb mushrooms, sliced
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 Tbs butter
¾ cup light cream
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup Swiss cheese, grated
Black pepper, freshly ground
Nutmeg, freshly grated

Cut a round of wax paper to fit the bottom of the mold or casserole.  Butter the sides of the mold and one side of the paper. Lay the paper, buttered side up in the mold; then thoroughly coat the paper and the sides of the mold with bread crumbs.  Refrigerate.

Cook the macaroni until barely tender (about ½ the time on the directions).  Refresh under cold water, drain and pat dry.  Chop the macaroni (I’m not sure this is necessary!) and combine with the ham.

Clean the mushrooms and toss them with lemon juice.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring for 2 – 3 minutes.  Salt lightly, pour in the light cream, and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the cream has almost evaporated.  Drain if necessary.

Beat the eggs with the heavy cream and the grated cheese.  Add the mushrooms, macaroni, and ham, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly and fill the mold.

Preheat the oven to 375˚.  Put the mold into a shallow pan and pour about 1½” of water into the pan.  Bring the water to a simmer on top of the stove.  Then cover the mold and put it into the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until the mixture has drawn away from the sides of the mold.

To serve
Unmold the charlotte onto a shallow dish and peel off the wax paper.  Coat the charlotte with some of the sauce Aurore (recipe below) and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Sauce Crème Aurore
Tomato Cream Sauce

2 ½ Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup cream
1 Tbs tomato paste
Black pepper, freshly ground
Nutmeg, freshly ground

Melt the butter in an enameled saucepan.  Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring, for a few seconds.  Remove from the heat and pour in the milk, beating vigorously to blend.  Return to the heat and continue stirring until the sauce comes to a boil. Add the cream, and a little of the tomato paste and stir again thoroughly.  The sauce should be a light golden rose like the dawn or tea rose (yes, this is what it says!).  Add a little more tomato paste if necessary, and let the sauce boil for 2 minutes.  Taste and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

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