Les and I met in Freshman Honor's English class at Lincoln University in the fall of 1982. It was taught by Helen "Lynne" Loschky. Besides providing the forum in which I met my future wife, Lynne has had a huge impact on my life, and I owe her a lot. Unfortunately she passed away from cancer in 2003. I miss her.
She was more than an English professor to me, although it shows what an amazing English professor she was since I took Victorian literature - "Vicky lit" - just to have her for another class. She was a mentor, coach and friend. At one point we lived next door to each other and her daughter babysat my eldest daughter. She was one of the people who actually convinced me I have a brain, and along with Margaret Bridenstine was the best teacher I ever had.
And one of the many things she taught me about life was her cheese sauce for pasta. This sauce, with some canned clams or shrimp, was her "emergency" recipe for when people came unexpectedly for dinner, because it was quick, easy and so rich that it tasted like a gourmet feast while allowing the cook to be unconcerned about it and spend time with the guests. That was classic Lynne.
I've used it since as the basis for many things, including tonight's scalloped potatoes and ham. Which is what made me decide to post it. Here it is, in all it's glorious simplicity.
- 1 stick butter
- 1 package cream cheese
- 1+ cup cream
That's it. But of course that's not it, because like all great cooking, the simple basics can be varied a million different ways. For example, Lynne would add any scraps of whatever cheese she had laying around in the fridge. And of course you want to season it with salt and pepper, plus anything else that sounds good. I've used the following alone or in various combos over the years:
- garlic (lots of garlic)
Lynne used it as the basis for a seafood sauce, adding canned clams or shrimp (or both). You can add whatever you want. Choose any of the following:
- canned seafood
- minced mushrooms
- diced ham or other diced leftover meat (chicken, etc.)
You get the idea.
In a double boiler or a non-stick pot on medium melt the three main ingredients together until they are hot. Do not bring to a boil, although a light bubbling around the edges is fine. Add whatever else you're adding and heat through. Done.
Pour over pasta, use as the starting point for scalloped potatoes (that may be another post), or as a dip for a crusty bread (sourdough or pumpernickel would be good). It's very, very rich, so just the base sauce and a pound of pasta plus a salad will easily feed four. Serve with a white wine by candlelight and it will seem like an elegant, intimate dinner for your closest friends, even though they saw how little effort you took to make it. But then again, since you all got to talk and laugh through the brief preparation of it, isn't that the best dinner of all?
Thanks, Lynne. We miss you.